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Legal Commentary - Joanne Mariner Archive



Joanne Mariner is the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program Director at Human Rights Watch. She has worked on a wide variety of issues for the organization, documenting war crimes in Colombia, Kosovo and Darfur, political violence in Haiti, and the interface between terrorism and the laws of war, among others.

Mariner drafted Human Rights Watch’s 1999 submission to the House of Lords in the Pinochet case, and is the author of a ground-breaking 2001 report on prison rape. She has also conducted advocacy before U.N. bodies, briefed members of Congress and staff on human rights issues, and appeared on national media such as C-SPAN, ABC News, and NPR.

A graduate of Yale Law School, she served as a law clerk to Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before joining Human Rights Watch in 1994. She speaks French and Spanish.

The views expressed in her column are her own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Human Rights Watch, FindLaw.

The Year in Counterterrorism
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner looks back on 2010 to survey developments relating to counterterrorism. Mariner covers leading cases, relevant books, and WikiLeaks's release of a series of cables from U.S. diplomatic representatives in Spain and Germany that revealed sharp tensions based on those countries' negative views of Bush Era counterterrorism measures. Overall, Mariner notes that recent developments illustrate how elements of the post-9/11 world are still very much in flux. The court cases Mariner considers raise issues such as whether U.S. courts can hear habeas corpus petitions from detainees arrested far from any battlefield; whether speech deemed to constitute "material support" of a terrorist group can constitutionally be banned; and whether decisions regarding targeted killings of alleged Al Qaeda members should be resolved by the courts or the executive branch.
Monday, December 27, 2010

Civil Society and Counterterrorism
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on a key issue that was raised by the recent conference that launched the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague ("ICCT--The Hague"). As Mariner explains, ICCT-- The Hague is a think tank that will carry out research and analysis relating to counterterrorism. The conference focused upon post-September 11th counter-terrorism measures. Mariner considers one issue that it raised, in particular: Can civil society efforts play a role in counter-terrorism by resolving potentially violent conflicts, remedying underdevelopment, calming religious tensions, or addressing other conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism? Mariner notes that some government actually may see civil society organizations as more of a hindrance than a help, when it comes to counterterrorism efforts. She recalls, in particular, post-9/11 Bush Administration suggestions that civil society groups whose members criticized Administration measures were aiding terrorism and eroding national unity. Given America's free-speech tradition, Mariner notes, the U.S. groups that faced government criticism still kept speaking out independently. But in other countries, she warns, the same may not be true; civil society organizations may end up being subject to sanctions, or else being co-opted by the government.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let's Talk About Waterboarding
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner covers several developments that, she argues, together indicate that the U.S. government will continue to employ torture with impunity. Indeed, Mariner contends that the way America has embraced torture risks the "banalization" of the practice -- with former President George W. Bush expressing no remorse or even ambivalence about his waterboarding order; a U.S. Attorney's decision not to prosecute the CIA's destruction of videotapes of abusive interrogation practices; and the New York Times's acceptance of a piece co-authored by "torture memo" author John Yoo, whose legal work on the memos has been harshly criticized by the Justice Department's Office of Responsibility, and even by some fellow conservative attorneys. Mariner sees the current investigation of CIA crimes against detainees as a ray of hope in the midst of the other developments, but notes that the investigation is limited to interrogation practices that go further than even the "torture memos" authorized.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Glimpse into the Silicon Heart of the CIA's Drone Program: Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns
In the first in a two-part series of columns about drone warfare, FindLaw columnist and human-rights attorney Joanne Mariner explains how a civil case that is being litigated in Superior Court in Boston has revealed information regarding some of the computer systems and software used by the CIA's drone-warfare program. As Mariner explains, the suit raises questions about the reliability of the software at issue, and thus about possible criminal or civil liability for flawed or erroneous drone strikes. As Mariner explains, the CIA is not a party to the Massachusetts case, which pits two computer-industry companies against each other, but its drone program is directly at issue. She describes both sides' allegations and the court's rulings thus far, and she explains why the case raises issues about the reliability of the targeting of CIA drones.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When Machines Kill
FindLaw columnist and human-rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on the international legal standards that relate to assessing governments' reliance on unmanned weapons systems. Mariner notes that there may well be a need for new standards in this area, to address weaponized robots and drones. Such standards, she explains, might regulate the development, proliferation, and use of unmanned weapons systems, or might even ban robotic weapons if they are deemed "autonomous." Mariner notes that governments have been using unmanned weapons -- especially armed drones -- more and more often over the past decade, making the need for a re-evaluation of the relevant law all the more urgent. She covers some of the arguments raised at an ongoing Berlin conference on the subject that she is attending -- including the concern that war without troop casualties may seem much more attractive to the warmakers. Interestingly, some at the conference favor a clear rule that "Machines should not be allowed to make the decision to kill people."
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Targeted Killings Go To Court
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on a suit filed yesterday, August 30, by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights. As Mariner explains, the suit, Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, seeks to limit the U.S.'s power to kill American citizens abroad. Anwar al-Aulaqi -- an American citizen hiding in Yemen, and alleged to be an al Qaeda operative -- is reportedly on a short list of American citizens whom U.S. military forces have been authorized to kill. In addition, reports state that he recently became the first U.S. citizen to be place on a secret CIA kill list, and that he has already been targeted by at least one U.S. airstrike in Yemen. Yet he has never been indicted in the U.S., and the government's evidence against him remains secret. The plaintiff in the suit is Anwar's father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, although his standing to sue may be in doubt. Mariner explains the suit's objectives, and why it is both novel and important.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forced Returns From Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human-rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on the issue of Guantanamo prisoners who do not want to be sent back to their home countries, because they fear that they will face torture or other serious forms of abuse if they are repatriated. As Mariner explains, prisoners in this situation include the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority from western China; and a number of Tunisians, Libyans, and Algerians. Mariner notes that, until now, the Obama Administration had not previously followed a policy of forced repatriation. Instead, it found third countries -- that is, countries other than the U.S. or the prisoners' home countries -- to which to send released Guantanamo prisoners who feared that they would be abused if repatriated. Mariner criticizes the policy change -- represented by the forced repatriation, ten days ago, of an Algerian prisoner who was not given any hearing regarding his claimed fear that he would be harmed if repatriated. In particular, Mariner notes that the new policy violates the Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has ratified.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Talking to Terrorists: The Worst U.S. Supreme Court Decision of the Term
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Supreme Court's recent, end-of-Term decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. There, the Court held that peace and human-rights activists could not legally advise and train militant groups to use lawful means to achieve political ends. Specifically, the groups had wanted to (1) train Kurdish nationalists in Turkey on how to use international law to resolve disputes peacefully, and how to petition “representative bodies such as the United Nations” for relief; and (2) engage in political advocacy on behalf of the Kurds in Turkey and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Mariner argues that the ruling -- which held that the First Amendment did not protect the activists' planned communications with the groups at issue from being characterized as illegal "material support" to terrorist groups under federal law--is among the top candidates for being the Term's very worst.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Questions for the Obama Administration on its Drone Warfare Program
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner follows up on her earlier piece on the United States' use of drones -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- by contrasting views of the drone program in the U.S. and in Pakistan, where substantial numbers of drone strikes have occurred. Mariner points out that only when a U.S. citizen became a target, did the drone program trigger Congressional hearings. Meanwhile, in Pakistan -- where Mariner points out that over 1,000 Pakistanis, including innocent civilians, have been killed in drone attacks since 2004 -- public scrutiny of the program has been more longstanding, and highly negative, and there is a strong belief that the drone attacks have actually increased support for militants.
Monday, May 17, 2010

More Questions About Drones
With Congressional hearings beginning shortly on the Obama Administration's drone warfare program, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner proposes questions that she contends ought to be asked regarding the program -- through which the CIA uses unmanned aerial vehicles ("drones") to fire missiles at suspected militants in Pakistan and elsewhere. Mariner notes that the Obama Administration is making significantly more frequent use of the drone program than the Bush Administration did, and explains why drone strikes may raise complex questions under international human rights and humanitarian law. Accordingly, she offers specific questions that she argues should be asked about the program -- especially regarding possible killings of civilians, and about how targeting decisions are made.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

UN Security Council Seeks an Eminent Individual for an Impossible Job
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a new United Nations position: that of the ombudsperson whose job it will be to bring greater fairness to the UN Security Council’s Al Qaeda and Taliban targeted sanctions regime. As Mariner explains, the UN maintains a list of persons who are thought to be affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, but the delisting process is deeply flawed: Even deceased persons remain on the list; those who want to challenge the fact that they have been put on the list are not afforded due process guarantees; and prior notice is not given before a person is listed. The UN's latest move toward greater fairness has been the creation of the ombudsperson's office, but for reasons Mariner explains, that person will face a difficult, if not impossible, challenge -- in part because he or she will lack true decisionmaking power.
Friday, April 16, 2010

The Trial of Aafia Siddiqui
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on the ongoing, Manhattan-based federal court trial of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is charged with the attempted murder, while in custody, of members of a group that included FBI agents. As Mariner explains, the trial is as interesting for what it has not covered, as for what it has: Unresolved questions still remain regarding whether Siddiqui may have spent months or years in a secret CIA and/or Afghan prison or was in hiding during that time; and regarding what has happened to her children -- two of whom are missing. Mariner notes that the U.S. government has taken the position that any secret-prison information is classified, while Siddiqui has refused to cooperate with her own legal team, and in outbursts, has claimed her children were tortured. Mariner contends that key questions such as these, that the trial has left unresolved, should be explored in another context or forum.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Unhappy Anniversary at Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on the eighth anniversary of the United States' 2002 decision to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She notes that the prison not only remains open, but still holds nearly 200 prisoners; only about ten, she explains, have been charged with a crime, although some detainees have been held by US forces since 2001. Mariner contends that this type of long-term indefinite detention without charge grievously harms America's reputation in the world, and should lead us to question America's commitment to its own constitutional values. Mariner faults the Obama Administration for breaking its early promise to close Guantanamo within a year, but argues that even worse is the Administration's plan to effectively move Guantanamo to a new Illinois facility, and thus, not to truly shut it down at all. The right course, she contends, is for the Administration to either try the prisoners in court, send them home, or resettle them, providing support and follow-up to ensure that they will not be susceptible to recruitment by militants.
Monday, January 11, 2009

A First Look at the Military Commissions Act of 2009, Part Three
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner continues her series of columns on the Military Commissions Act of 2009 ("2009 MCA"), which alters the rules set down for military commissions proceedings. In this column, Part Three in the series, Mariner begins by noting that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — accused of recently attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines jet — will be tried in U.S. civilian federal court, not before a military commission. But she adds that there are still Guantanamo detainees who will face military commissions proceedings — and will thus be covered, instead, by the procedures set forth in the 2009 MCA. Continuing her coverage of the law's provisions, she explains how the 2009 MCA differs from its 2006 counterpart with respect to the Geneva Conventions. She also counters the commonly-made argument that suspects like Abdulmutallab do not "deserve" the level of justice typically meted out in the United States.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A First Look at the Military Commissions Act of 2009, Part Two
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner continues her multi-part series of columns on the Military Commissions Act of 2009 ("2009 MCA"), which alters the rules governing military commission proceedings. In this column, Part Two in the series, Mariner first focuses on the evidentiary rules that the 2009 MCA sets forth -- and in particular, on its answers to questions about whether statements that are involuntary and/or that are the product of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment can be submitted as evidence in such proceedings. Next, she focuses on the ways in which the 2009 MCA has somewhat improved the resources available to the defense in such proceedings.
Monday, November 30, 2009

A First Look at the Military Commissions Act of 2009, Part One
In the first in a two-part series of columns on the Military Commissions Act of 2009 ("2009 MCA"), FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner explains the ways in which the 2009 MCA alters -- and, she argues, somewhat improves upon -- the Bush Administration's 2006 MCA, and the ways in which it sticks with the Bush Administration model. In particular, Mariner looks at the new rules as to who can be brought before a military commission for trial; the way the law's treatment of the Taliban, in particular, has changed; and the change in the law's treatment of those found to provide purposeful and material support to terrorists. Mariner also takes issue with the law's failure to restrict itself to traditional definitions of armed conflict; its broad scope, encompassing even acts occurring long before 9/11; and its failure to exempt those who were under 18 when their offenses were allegedly committed from military commission proceedings. Mariner also argues that, while the law reaches too far in many areas, there is one area in which it does not reach far enough: It includes, but not American citizens, in a provision that embodies illegal discrimination and, Mariner argues, may explain why the law has not sparked much scrutiny or opposition.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Military Commissions, the Federal Courts, and the 9/11 Trial
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that it is imperative that the upcoming trial of the alleged planners of the 9/11 attacks take place in a federal civilian court, rather than before a military commission as currently planned. Reportedly, just such a transfer of the case is currently under consideration by the Obama Administration. Mariner contends that the advantages of the transfer would include (1) the federal courts' familiarity with terrorism cases and their superior track record of prosecuting them; (2) the courts' ability to provide both the appearance -- to the watching world -- and the reality of a fair and credible trial; (3) the message that trying the cases in federal civilian courts would send to the world, that terrorists are despicable criminals, not warriors; and (4) the fact that the courts' procedures are time-tested and constitutional, whereas the military commissions suffer from serious substantive and procedural flaws. Ultimately, Mariner urges, employing military commissions for this closely-watched trial would tarnish the proceedings in the eyes of the world; perpetuate the stigma of Guantanamo; and play into terrorists' hands.
Monday, October 19, 2009

Tortured Language
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner contends that, despite Bush era euphemisms, many of the interrogation methods used during the Bush Administration should rightly, and simply, have been called "torture." Mariner also argues that, since legal experts have firmly and credibly categorized the methods used by the Bush Administration as torture -- with Attorney General Eric Holder stating in his confirmation, for instance, that waterboarding is torture -- the media should follow suit. Mariner suggests that referring to "harsh" or "coercive" interrogation tactics when what is really meant is torture, is not journalistic neutrality, but simply the kind of euphemistic language that George Orwell so memorably decried in "The Politics of Language." Mariner notes that waterboarding, in particular, has long been recognized as torture in the U.S. and elsewhere, and provides specific examples to illustrate her point. Accordingly, she argues that, when news organizations refrain from deeming practices such as waterboarding "torture," they are ignoring legal and historic realities.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What the Inspector General Found
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the long-delayed release of the 2004 report of the CIA's Inspector General, describing Bush-era interrogation abuses, and the related news that Attorney General Eric Holder is appointing a federal prosecutor to look into such abuses. Mariner summarizes the significant new information in the report -- which was revealed thanks to ACLU litigation. She also points to the potentially high significance of the report's large blacked-out portions (constituting almost a third of its length), which include lengthy sections concerning waterboarding. Mariner argues that while appalling unauthorized interrogation techniques were used, it is important to keep in mind, too, that many appalling techniques were also fully authorized by interrogators' superiors and Bush Administration attorneys. She urges that Attorney General Holder should refrain from putting full responsibility on underlings while ignoring the wrongs of higher-ups who evidence suggests orchestrated abuse as a matter of policy.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Letting Cheney off the Hook
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses Attorney General Eric Holder's reported decision to appoint a federal prosecutor to investigate Bush-era interrogation abuses. Mariner criticizes Holder for reportedly leaning toward limiting the investigation to CIA operatives and the employees of private contractors who worked with them, and looking only to whether interrogators went beyond what Bush Administration attorneys had authorized. Mariner argues that the proper focus of the investigation should be senior officials, not low-level personnel. In addition, while Mariner lauds President Obama for abolishing secret CIA prisons and banning torture, she contends that only by holding senior Bush Administration officials accountable, can America truly restore its moral authority. She also argues that, since the Bush Administration legal memos authorized crimes, it would be indefensible for Holder to limit the investigation only to conduct that went beyond the memos.
Monday, August 10, 2009

The CIA's Bad Apples
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments upon Newsweek's recent report that Attorney General Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to look into Bush Administration interrogation abuses. Mariner argues that Holder should make the appointment, which she says would send the strongest possible message to the world that the U.S. does not employ, endorse, or condone torture. However, she also expresses concern about the reported scope of the potential prosecutorial task, which is said to be limited to investigating only interrogation tactics that went beyond those authorized by lawyers. Mariner contends that opting for such a narrow scope would validate the erroneous legal opinions of attorneys who were simply Bush Administration ideologues providing easy rubber-stamps; and would mischaracterize the facts, styling Bush Administration torture as the work of a few rogues, not the officially-validated policy it actually was.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Obama's New Euphemism
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that President Obama's recent reference to "prolonged detention" in a speech, combined with a news report of a new executive order in the works that would authorize indefinite detention, is very troubling. Mariner sets out four strong arguments as to why authorizing indefinite detention without charge -- a practice that she notes would clash with U.S. history and constitutional tradition -- would be a serious mistake for the Administration. Indeed, she contends it would recreate one of Guantanamo's most troubling practices, thus creating an equivalent to Guantanamo despite the closure of the facility itself.
Tueday, June 30, 2009

Leaving Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner considers the situation of a particular subset of remaining Guantanamo detainees, the Uighurs, who have been cleared to be released, and who, according to findings of a federal district judge, have no connection to terrorism. The Uighurs -- ethnically members of a minority group in China -- are citizens of countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Uzbekistan where, if they are repatriated, they may face persecution. Moreover, the Uighurs' -- or any Guantanamo detainees' -- release into the United States is increasingly looking like an unlikely option in face of strong Congressional disapproval. Mariner considers the few remaining alternatives for the Uighurs, and explains the complicating factors -- such as the prospect of China's retaliating against countries that accept the Uighurs, and the problem of countries' inability to explain to their citizens why their country is accepting Guantanamo detainees, when the United States itself refuses to do so.
Tueday, June 16, 2009

Global Views on Closing Guantanamo (the Right Way)
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner points out that if the Obama Administration opts for a system of preventive detention -- that is, detention without charge or trial -- for some of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, then it will be out of step with many other governments around the world with respect to the protection of civil liberties. Mariner contrasts the democratic governments that currently eschew preventive detention with the repressive governments that currently embrace it. She also gives specifics as to how repressive governments have been emboldened regarding their detention systems by their ability to point to the U.S.'s similar system. Mariner argues that if Guantanamo itself is closed, but its underlying unjust detention system continues elsewhere, then the world's rightful outrage at this feature of U.S. justice, and repressive governments' ability to cite the U.S. example as justification, will both continue unabated.
Monday, June 8, 2009

Military Commissions, Round Three
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a recent decision by President Obama that pleased a number of prominent conservatives, but has troubled many liberals: Obama has declared that his administration will try a set of remaining Guantanamo detainees before a revised version of President Bush's military commissions, rather than prosecuting them in the federal courts. Mariner -- noting that this is a sharp reversal of Obama's stance on the commissions during his campaign -- argues that Obama was right the first time. She cites a series of strong reasons why federal court trials are preferable, and why Obama's revisions to Bush Administration tribunal procedures, while an improvement, fall short of guaranteeing due process. Mariner also points to a possible silver lining to Obama's decision, however: The option of military tribunal proceedings may decrease or eliminate the number of detainees who will be held indefinitely without trial.
Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama's Counterterrorism Reforms: What Remains to be Done
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner assesses the ways in which the Obama Administration has thus far reformed its counterterrorism policies, and recommends additional measures that the Administration should also take. Among the as-yet-unresolved issues, Mariner explains, are the fates of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, some of whom need to be resettled; and the question of how those among the detainees who are suspected of terrorism should be prosecuted. Mariner notes that while military commission proceedings have been halted, there has been no final decision by the Administration to move the detainees' cases into the federal courts -- a step that she argues is the right solution here.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tortured Evidence and Terrorist Blacklists
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses last week's release of four memos from the Bush Administration in which Bush Justice Department attorneys claimed that it was legal for U.S. interrogators to apply to detainees even techniques that constituted torture under U.S. and international law. Mariner raises several questions about how the evidence that resulted from these torturous practices was used. She asks, for example, Was the tainted evidence used exclusively for further investigation, or did it also affect legal and administrative proceedings -- the outcomes of which, in turn, affected rights? Mariner notes that this question is especially important because information procured by torture is not only illegally obtained, but also typically highly unreliable. Thus, for instance, detainees may have been kept for a longer time at Guantanamo based on unreliable evidence that resulted from their or other detainees' undergoing torture. Mariner notes that unreliable evidence arising out of terror may also have tainted the government's blacklists composed of individuals and groups claimed to be connected to terrorism -- potentially resulting in innocent people and organizations appearing on the blacklists and suffering the consequences.
Monday, April 20, 2009

International Complicity in US Abuses, Part III
In the third in a series of related columns, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses additional evidence regarding the Bush Administration's collaboration with other countries' governments in "war on terror" human rights abuses. In particular, Mariner focuses on evidence, given by a former Guantanamo detainee, of British involvement in torture. Mariner notes that the British Attorney General has ordered a probe of the former detainee's allegations. In addition, Mariner cites evidence of collaboration by Pakistan, Australia, Georgia, and Italy in apparent U.S. abuses of detainees' rights. She also notes that evidence indicates that Pakistani authorities collaborating with the U.S. went so far as to hold detainees' relatives, and even their children, as hostages.
Friday, April 10, 2009

The Global Impact of U.S. “War on Terror” Abuses, Part II
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner follows up on her recent column discussing the global impact of the U.S.'s "war on terror" human rights abuses -- such as torture, "disappearances," and arbitrary detention. In this second column, Mariner focuses on a number of countries with which the evidence suggests that the U.S. collaborated in abuses, often through the practice of rendition: Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Indonesia and Jordan. Mariner also describes how some evidence that resulted from rendition to Egypt, and from torture, made its way into the Bush Administration's case, conveyed to the U.N. by Secretary of State Colin Powell, for a purported Iraq-Al Qaeda link.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Global Impact of U.S. "War on Terror" Abuses
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that the Bush Administration's legacy of human rights abuses during the "war on terror" -- such as instances of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and unfair trials -- will continue to haunt the U.S. even as the Obama Administration alters many prior Bush Administration policies. She notes that many of these abuses were perpetrated in coordination with other countries, and that the U.S. set a negative example for countries that were able to point to abusive U.S. practices in an attempt to excuse their own. Mariner poses the question of how the Obama Administration can not only rewrite past policies, but also counteract their continuing global influence on America's reputation and human rights worldwide.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama's War on Terror
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that the Obama Administration will be making a grave error if it adopts the Bush Administration's "war on terror" paradigm -- as statements by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration's recent federal court submissions suggest that it may. In the federal court submissions, Mariner explains, the Obama Administration has continued the Bush Administration's stance of deeming two businessmen who were detained abroad in countries friendly to the U.S., far from any battlefield, "enemy combatants" and insisting that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over the men, and that they may be held indefinitely in Afghanistan without trial. In support of her contention that the war paradigm is the wrong one to use, Mariner cites and analyzes a recent report by a prominent group of international jurists.
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009

Some Benchmarks for Measuring Reform
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses early Obama Administration counterterrorism stances -- giving examples of instances in which the President and his staff have, and in one case have not, diverged from Bush Administration precedents. More specifically, Mariner praises the Obama Administration's progress on Guantanamo, but criticizes its adherence to the Bush Administration's views on the state secrets privilege in a recent case that is now on appeal. She also offers a set of key benchmarks by which, she argues, the Obama Administration's initial progress should be judged -- each involving the fates and legal rights of detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere.
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009

Obama's First Steps on Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner takes stock of President Obama's actions, thus far, with regard to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and related issues. She notes that, within days of taking office, Obama had shut down military commission proceedings and issued four relevant executive orders, and she explains why these actions represented a dramatic break from Bush Administration precedent. Yet she notes areas in which Obama has been more cautious -- judiciously emphasizing review and analysis, rather than immediate action. Mariner also explains why, as yet, it is not clear what will happen to those detainees who are not released, transferred abroad, or tried. Nor is it yet absolutely certain that the only trial proceedings for detainees will be in the federal courts, or that extraordinary rendition will end.
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009

Not Just Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner applauds President-elect Obama's decision to close Guantanamo on his first full day in office, but cautions that one key issue that Guantanamo raised -- the indefinite detention of persons without charge, and without trial -- will not be resolved by its closure. Indeed, in Afghanistan, Mariner notes, hundreds of detainees are being held at the Bagram Air Force Base, some for years, and all without access to attorneys. Mariner focuses, in particular, on Haji Wazir, one of the petitioners in a case before the federal district court in Washington, D.C. The evidence suggests that Wazir was "disappeared" by the CIA; eventually, he was held incommunicado at Bagram, despite his family's attempts to reach him. The case in which he is a petitioner challenges the Bagram detentions and seeks to invoke the writ of habeas corpus. Yet Mariner notes that there is a risk, based on a recent Supreme Court decision, that even though the petitioners are in U.S. custody, the Court may decide they are beyond the reach of the Great Writ. Mariner argues that, like the Guantanamo detainees before them, the Bagram detainees should have access to the writ of habeas corpus, and that their indefinite detentions should be supplanted by fair federal-court trials.
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009

Advice to Obama on Closing Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that, in keeping his promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo, President-elect Obama should follow the counsel given in an open letter to him from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch, of which Mariner is a Director. Among the four groups' recommendations, as Mariner explains, is the contention that detainees should either be prosecuted in the federal courts or released to their home countries (unless they would suffer persecution there, in which case they must be resettled elsewhere). In support of this recommendation, Mariner points to evidence that the federal courts have a long history of the successful prosecution of terrorism cases. In addition, citing prosecutors' ability to bring charges such as conspiracy based on minimal evidence, Mariner contends that President-elect Obama should not -- as some have suggested -- embrace a system allowing the preventive detention of some persons who cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed any crime.
Monday, Dec. 29, 2008

European Support for Closing Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses one of the key questions President-elect Barack Obama will face as he makes good on his promise to close the notorious detention center at Guantanamo Bay: What should be done with detainees who should be released, but cannot be returned to their home countries because they would face torture or other mistreatment there? Mariner points out that most of the detainees at issue have no Al Qaeda links or record of violence, but also notes that the Bush Administration's labeling all Guantanamo detainees "terrorists" would make it politically difficult for the Obama Administration to resettle innocent detainees in the United States. Accordingly, she contends that the U.S. should pursue promising signs that European Union countries may be willing to accept these detainees -- but also consider that Europe may be more willing to help if America accepts its share of the released detainees, too.
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

A Public Accounting for Post-9/11 Abuses
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that the incoming Obama Administration should, within its first six months, convene a nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry regarding post-9/11 human rights abuses, including torture committed or caused by the U.S. government. Among the questions the Commission should address, Mariner contends, are who should be held accountable for proven abuses -- such as the waterboarding of detainees -- and how. Mariner offers specific suggestions as to features the Commission must have if its work is to be effective -- such as subpoena power, the power to recommend prosecutions of former government officials, and the ability to review relevant classified material. In addition, she argues that the Commission should be convened regardless of whether President Bush issues a set of pardons for those who may be accused -- because, among other reasons, the historical record should be set straight.
Monday, Dec. 01, 2008

How to Close Guantánamo in Six Steps
President-elect Barack Obama recently re-committed himself to fulfilling his campaign promise to close the infamous detention facility at Guantanamo -- but when he does so, important decisions will need to be made regarding the treatment of both current detainees and future terrorism suspects. Drawing upon her own and others' work at Human Rights Watch, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner suggests a six-step plan for the Obama Administration to follow when closing Guantanamo. Among other features, the plan would offer an assessment of the evidence against current Guantanamo detainees by a new Administration that is able to take a more balanced look; and would ensure that all terrorism charges are tried, using fair procedures, in the federal courts -- which have already seen the post-9/11 prosecutions of over 100 such cases.
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008

A Short List of Human Rights Reforms for the Next President
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner makes recommendations as to needed reforms that should appear on the next president's human rights agenda, drawing upon her own and others' work at Human Rights Watch. She focuses in particular on three areas: First is counterterrorism policy, such as policy with respect to detainees, which Mariner argues should be transformed to respect detainees' rights, with a truth commission convened to investigate past abuses. Second is the U.S.'s relations with other governments; she contends that the U.S. must hold its allies, not just its enemies, accountable for their human rights violations. Third is U.S. exceptionalism; Mariner contends that the U.S. cannot continue to claim to honor human rights while also opting not to sign important human rights treaties, and refusing to recognize International Criminal Court jurisdiction over Americans.
Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

The Uighurs Go to Washington
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a recent hearing at which, for the first time ever, a federal judge ordered the release, on parole, of detainees who had been held at Guantanamo. The detainees -- seventeen Muslim Uighurs who had been cleared by the Bush Administration for release in 2004 -- had previously been stuck in a kind of limbo: They could not be returned to their native China due to credible fears they would face incarceration and torture, and yet the Bush Administration would not agree to bring them to the U.S. Mariner argues that the district judge's ruling was correct and well-reasoned, but notes that the government has filed an emergency appeal seeking reversal.
Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2008

A Landmark Torture Trial
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses an upcoming, historic trial -- one that will mark the first time a federal law criminalizing extraterritorial acts of torture is applied. The defendant -- American citizen "Chuckie" Taylor, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor -- is accused of having committed horrific human rights abuses when he served as head of Liberia's notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit. Mariner notes that the same law may someday be used to prosecute "war on terror" abuses committed by American citizens (possibly including CIA agents) abroad as well.
Monday, Sept. 22, 2008

The Strange and Terrible Case of Aafia Siddiqui
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the case of neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, a terrorism suspect who, according to her attorneys, has been a victim of torture. In early 2003, Siddiqui disappeared from her native country, Pakistan, while traveling with her three young children. Her attorneys believe she was kept in Pakistani or U.S. custody until July 2008, when she was revealed to be in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, although the U.S. denies the prior detention. Mariner explains why there is strong reason to doubt the U.S.'s claims as to how Siddiqui and her son came to be in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. In addition, Mariner urges that the federal court now hearing Siddiqui's claims of illegal detention and torture should carefully investigate them, for they are relevant to both her mental state and the integrity of the court's jurisdiction. Mariner also notes that the whereabouts of two of Siddiqui's children, now five and ten years old are unknown, and that her eleven-year-old son, Ahmed, was held -- contrary to international humanitarian law -- by the Afghan intelligence agency, famous for its brutal treatment of those it detains.
Monday, Sept. 08, 2008

A UK Window into CIA Abuses
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a UK proceeding, scheduled for this week, that may reveal hitherto unknown facts about the treatment of U.S. detainee Binyam Mohamed, and about U.S. interrogation procedures more generally. Mohamed says that, while in secret CIA detention, he endured torture that caused him later, while in military detention, to give false evidence that will be used against him when he faces potential terrorism-related charges before a military commission at Guantanamo. Last week, the UK High Court ruled that the British government, due to the UK's involvement in Mohamed's detention, was under a legal obligation to disclose to Mohamed's defense counsel the information it possesses relating to Mohamed's whereabouts, treatment, and interrogation, since this information may be important to his defense. However, the High Court stopped short of ordering such disclosure, in order to take more time to consider the national security implications of the case. This week, the High Court will once again address Mohamed's case, and may well direct the government to hand over the evidence, unless the UK foreign secretary quickly intervenes.
Monday, Aug. 25, 2008

Military Commissions, So Far
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the 19 military-commission trials that will now follow on the heels of the recent trial of Salim Hamdan. As Mariner explains, the upcoming 19 trials will present allegations much more serious than those that had been made about Hamdan and another detainee who had been scheduled for a military-commission trial, but pled guilty. In particular, the seven trials in which the government will seek the death penalty concern men alleged to have been major figures in terrorist activities, including 9/11 and earlier bombings targeting U.S. personnel. Mariner describes a number of flaws in the Hamdan trial that could undermine both the appearance and the reality of justice, if they are repeated in these and other high-stakes, upcoming military-commission trials as well.
Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Debating Human Rights and Counterterrorism in Britain
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner describes the ongoing debate in Britain regarding proposed legislation that would alter the law on detention without charge. Drawing upon a Human Rights Watch report, Mariner explains why both conservatives and liberals have expressed opposition to the U.K.'s proposed new law. In addition, she points out that the proposed law would not only extend the period of detention from 28 days to 42 days, but also, if the power to detain a suspect were repeatedly reauthorized, could lead to a much longer period of "rolling" detention, composed of numerous 42-day periods. Finally, she suggests solutions that could remedy the serious rights issues the bill raises.
Monday, Jul. 28, 2008

Uighurs at Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a recent federal appellate ruling clearing a Guantanamo detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, of claims he was an "enemy combatant." (The ruling itself has not yet been released, but a brief order has been released stating its result.) Mariner explains Parhat's circumstances: He is an Uighur, a member of western China's Muslim minority and now part of a group of 17 Uighurs at Guantanamo. Reportedly, it was determined more than four years ago that the Uighurs were no threat to the U.S. -- yet they are still detained because neither their home country, China, nor the U.S., nor any other country will accept them. Mariner argues that, since the Uighurs would face severe ethnic and religious persecution if returned to China, they should be paroled into the U.S.
Monday, Jun. 30, 2008

What BoumedieneI Means
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the importance of the Supreme Court's recent, controversial split decision regarding Guantanamo detainees. As Mariner explains, the Court held that the detainees have the right to challenge their detention via a fair process in federal court, and that the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which had stripped the detainees of that right, constituted an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Though the Court has now settled one set of questions, Mariner points out that its decision raises others, such as whether Guantanamo will be closed, what the federal court proceedings will look like (and whether secret evidence can be used), whether the ruling will affect ongoing military commission proceedings, and whether prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and secret CIA prisons abroad will have the same rights Guantanamo detainees have now been held to possess. Mariner outlines some possible answers to these questions.
Monday, Jun. 16, 2008

An Inglorious Start
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner contends that, with military commission trials of Guantanamo detainees now beginning, it is crystal clear that the trials will not offer even basic procedural guarantees -- and thus will betray President Bush's promises that they would be just and fair. Mariner contends that this situation is deeply disturbing not only because unfair trials are wrong in themselves, but also because the trials -- which include those of detainees alleged to have been responsible for the September 11 attacks -- are an historic event, and the world will be watching. Yet unlike at the much-admired Nuremberg Trials, Mariner notes, the record -- including comments by former Chief Military Commissions Prosecutor Morris Davis, who resigned -- indicates that the possibility of acquittals has been categorically ruled out by those overseeing the trials, regardless of what the evidence may show.
Monday, Jun. 2, 2008

What Happens When the Gloves Come Off
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the CIA's rendition program, under which detainees are transferred from U.S. custody to the custody of countries whose interrogators employ brutal forms of torture. In her account, Mariner draws upon a recent Human Rights Watch report that she authored, detailing more than a dozen cases of CIA renditions to Jordan alone -- nearly all of which resulted in interrogations that included torture. The report includes Jordanian detainees' accounts of methods of torture including falaqa, the painful beating of the feet in a manner that can break bones and cause permanent damage; other kinds of beatings; and threats of rape. Mariner notes that the detainees' accounts of how they were tortured are very credible in light of the fact that they were mutually consistent, and corroborated by secondary sources.
Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2008

Patriots, Refugees, and Terrorists
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that the way U.S. immigration law currently defines terrorist activity is misguided, wrongly excluding would-be immigrants who are not remotely like terrorists, and who are legitimately fleeing persecution. Mariner explains that the definition -- as expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act and the REAL ID Act -- has been interpreted to extend even to people who acted under duress from dangerous persons, or who supported groups in their home countries that the U.S. also supported. Despite some recent Congressional action to allow waivers to be granted on a case-by-case basis, she contends, the situation remains deeply unjust.
Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2008

The Trials of Abu Omar
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the ongoing trial, in Milan, of twenty-six Americans who are alleged to have kidnapped an Egyptian imam known as Abu Omar. The Americans are being tried in absentia, and are virtually all claimed to be CIA operatives. Mariner, who interviewed Abu Omar in his home in Egypt last December, recounts his remarks regarding his case. She also discusses the highly controversial practice of rendition -- which occurs when the U.S. turns suspects over to foreign governments for interrogations that would be illegal if directly conducted by the U.S. In Abu Omar's case, it is alleged that the CIA kidnapped him in Italy, then turned him over to Egypt for brutal interrogation that included torture.
Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2008

After Guantanamo
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the situation of the detainees who have recently left, or are soon to leave, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. For many Afghan detainees, Mariner explains, the departure is only a transfer -- for they are being moved to a prison in Afghanistan called the Afghan National Detention Facility (ANDF). Mariner raises important questions about the status of the ANDF. While the ANDF is putatively under the control of the Afghan government, the U.S. says it retains a "mentoring" relationship with those who are in charge. Mariner discusses what, exactly, this may mean.
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Terrorism and Speech
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the post-9/11 global trend of punishing speech that, while not directly inciting terrorism, is seen as justifying, defending, glorifying, or enabling it. Drawing upon examples from the U.N. Security Council, the Council of Europe, and individual countries around the world, Mariner comments on particular resolutions and laws. She contends that the laws' broad language may sometimes reach legitimate political speech, and gives prosecutors disturbingly great discretion in deciding whom and whether to prosecute. Mariner questions whether such laws are being enforced against those who are a true danger, and whether prosecutorial resources would be better focused on action, as opposed to speech.
Monday, Jan. 28, 2008

Terrorism and Preventive Detention
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner offers a comprehensive look at all the options open to America for ways to legally treat detainees suspected of terrorism. She specifically focuses on how, according to each option, the process by which detention decisions are made should be. She also considers the "preventive detention" option, currently forbidden by U.S. law.
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

2007: The Year Presidential Candidates Debated Torture
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner offers a 2007-retrospective legal quiz, inviting readers to test their knowledge of the presidential candidates' respective positions on Guantanamo, torture, and habeas corpus. What does Rudy Giuliani think about waterboarding? What does Mitt Romney believe about the future of Guantanamo? Which Republican candidates have spoken out against waterboarding and who favors interrogators' power to choose any method of interrogation they like? Who would close Guantanamo if elected, and who would keep it open? Readers are invited to pick their answers, then check the answer key, which may contain some interesting surprises.
Wednesday, Jan. 02, 2008

Do They Even Know It's Christmas (on Guantanamo)?
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner recommends, and offers brief descriptions and evaluations of, key war-on-terror books, ranging from accounts by Bush Administration insiders, to personal stories by detainees. Several of the books directly take on the issue of the Administration's use of torture. While this won't be easy or pleasant holiday reading, it will prove rewarding and informative, and essential to understand war-on-terror policies and facts.
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007

The Supreme Court Faces the Kangaroo Courts
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses in detail one key issue that will be covered at Wednesday's historic U.S. Supreme Court oral argument regarding "war on terror" judicial review: whether Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) proceedings, the Bush Administration's proposed alternative to the federal courts, are in fact an "adequate substitute." Mariner raises issues such as CSRTs' reliance on secret evidence that is presumed, not proven, to be valid; and official language suggesting that CSRTs effectively put the burden of proof on the detainee, not the government. She also notes other serious procedural defects that suggest that CSRTs are, in fact, no substitute for the courts. Drawing on transcripts of CSRT proceedings, Mariner points to concrete illustrations of the Catch-22s detainees have faced.
Monday, Dec. 03, 2007

War Crimes Redux
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discussses a new book entitled Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know. As Mariner explains, the book covers questions such as these: What is the responsibility of military commanders for crimes committed by their subordinates? When is the killing of civilians a war crime? What do the Geneva Conventions say about terrorism? It also covers the accomplishments and limits of international tribunals addressing violations of international human rights law and the law of war.
Monday, Nov. 26, 2007

A Guantanamo Index
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner offers an index, much like the famous Harper's Magazine "Harper's Index," that provides a quantitative perspective on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the fates of the detainees there. The figures she compiles range from the shocking (the total days of the longest detentions without charge; the age of the youngest prisoner), to the deeply upsetting (number of apparent and attempted suicides; estimated number of detentions of farmers, aid workers, missionaries, and refugees totally unconnected to terrorism), to the appalling (hours for which, according to an FBI agent, two detainees were left chained in a fetal position).
Wednesday, Nov. 07, 2007

The UN Security Council's (Slowly) Improving Message on Counterterrorism and Human Rights
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the U.N. Security Council's evolving position on counterterrorism and the risk it poses of infringing human rights. Mariner notes that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Security Council established a Counter-Terrorism Committee, but notes also that the relevant resolution failed to even mention human rights, except in the narrow context of refugees. She contends that since then, the Security Council has emphasized security at the cost of human rights, closing its eyes to the rights violations counterterrorism policies cause. Mariner adds that while signs such as a subsequent resolution mentioning human rights, and a recently-created post for a human rights officer are hopeful, much more progress needs to be made.
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007

Torture's Paper Trail
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the New York Times's revelation last week that two more Bush Administration "torture memos" exist. Mariner contends that the memos' main purpose was to provide legal "cover" for illegal conduct, thereby immunizing U.S. officials from prosecution. Mariner assesses these and prior Bush Administration "torture memos," a classified executive directive, and last year's Military Commission Act and concludes that, taken together, they are a paper trial revealing the Administration's plan to violate applicable law on torture and get away with it. She also explains why the Administration might have thought such a strategy could succeed: In this area, unlike in others, a mistake of law may actually excuse illegal conduct.
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007

Terrorizing Social Protest
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses recent instances of two countries -- El Salvador and Britain -- invoking broad counterterrorism laws as an excuse to crack down on legitimate social protest. Though the targets of the protests were a water decentralization plan and global warming, respectively, the laws invoked against the protesters were specifically intended to address acts of terrorism. Mariner argues that police had ample authority and power to control any lawbreakers among the protesters without resorting opportunistically to using the counterterrorism laws to impose harsher penalties and bypass important procedural requirements. She also notes that most other countries' counterterrorism are similarly broad and similarly open to abuse.
Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007

Our Un-American Government
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses different definitions of what it means for a practice or belief to be "un-American," as defined by American figures ranging from Joseph McCarthy to Bill O'Reilly to Donald Rumsfeld. Mariner notes that even after Rumsfeld described the torture perpetrated at Abu Ghraib as "un-American," the U.S. has continued to condone torture. She argues that in the end, the term "un-American" should be defined in opposition to that which is best in American life -- including our regard for human rights. She encourages readers to sign a pledge to this effect, opposing what, she argues, are truly un-American practices such as indefinite detention and other rights violations.
Wednesday, Aug. 01, 2007

The Misinterpreter-in-Chief
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses an executive order recently issued by President Bush. The order purports to determine that the CIA's system of secret prisons "fully complies" with the U.S.'s Geneva Conventions obligations -- as long as the CIA itself complies with a series of requirements regarding interrogation practices and conditions of confinement. Mariner contends that the order wrongly ignores a key Supreme Court ruling, and is in clear error with respect to international law. She contends that the secret prisons program will continue to plainly violate the U.S.'s Geneva Conventions obligation, despite the executive order's claims. She also criticizes the executive order for purporting to impose a definition of "enemy combatant" even broader than those the Administration used in the past.
Monday, Jul. 23, 2007

Human Bargaining Chips
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the U.S.'s use of the tactic of taking hostage the family members -- including children -- of terrorist suspects. She notes that the tactic was used, for example, in connection with the investigation into Daniel Pearl's kidnapping. In another case, she notes, two young children were detained for months. Mariner condemns the tactic of using human beings as bargaining chips, whether practiced by terrorists or governments. She also notes the refusal by Bush Administration torture memo author Yoo to concede even that, hypothetically, it would be illegal to commit such an atrocity as to crush innocent children's testicles as their parents look on.
Tuesday, Jun. 26, 2007

Guantanamo to Abu Salim: Frying Pan to Fire
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the situation of those among Guantanamo's 380 prisoners who are likely to face torture if released to return to home countries such as Libya, China, Uzbekistan, and Algeria. In particular, Mariner focuses on Abdul Ra'ouf al-Qassim, who it seems very likely will be transferred this week to Libya's brutal Abu Salim prison -- where the U.S. State Department has noted that prisoners are "routinely tortured." Mariner points out that international law that binds the U.S. forbids a country from transferring a detainee to a country where there are substantial grounds to believe he will be tortured. In addition, Mariner points out that a U.K. immigration court recently saw through Libya's no-torture promises and stopped a detainee's return there, and contends the U.S. should do the same.
Monday, Jun. 18, 2007

Afghanistan's Civilian Victims
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner, who recently traveled to Afghanistan, discusses the six-fold increase there in civilian deaths -- resulting, often intentionally, from Taliban-instigated suicide bombings. In addition, "perfidious" attacks -- in which the attacker impersonates a civilian -- are common, and are causing casualties among bona fide civilians mistaken for perfidious attackers. Will Afghanistan soon become a second Iraq? Mariner contends that the warning signs are clear, though many Afghans have been turned strongly against the Taliban by its attacks.
Monday, May. 21, 2007

Of Tribunals and Torture
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the administrative procedures --performed by Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) -- that were recently applied to fourteen "high value" Guantanamo detainees, and argues that they failed to accord detainees anything remotely like due process of law. She contends, too, that the detainees' upcoming military commission trials may be even worse in this regard -- producing sentences based on supposed "confessions" procured by means of abuse and even torture. She also notes that the Pentagon's censorship of CSRT proceedings, on the grounds that they could reveal interrogation methods, speaks volumes about the dubiousness of the methods that must have been employed. She also asks: Why were these proceedings, once open to journalists, closed?
Tuesday, May. 15, 2007

Welcome to the Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's New Detainee
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a potentially important new development with respect to the U.S.'s Guantanamo Bay detention center: the arrival of a new detainee, a Kenyan named Abdul Malik. Mariner considers why -- after two-and-a-half years of watching Guantanamo's population steadily shrink, amid international criticism of the facility -- the Bush Administration has transferred a new detainee there. She also asks why Malik -- arrested in Kenya, far from any war zone -- isn't being held in preparation for a federal court trial, rather than being indefinitely detained as an "enemy combatant" at Guantanamo.
Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2007

Missing CIA Prisoners: Part Two of a Two-Part Series
In Part Two of a two-part series of columns on CIA "disappearances," FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner considers a pressing question: Given President Bush's representation, as of last September, that there were no prisoners held in CIA custody, what, precisely, happened to the prisoners whom evidence shows were held by the CIA before then? Mariner offers estimates of the numbers and nature of such prisoners, and points, as well, to specific lists of names of those believed to be former prisoners, whose whereabouts are unaccounted for. She raises the very strong possibility that they were sent by the CIA to foreign prisons in countries where torture is practiced.
Monday, Mar. 12, 2007

"Disappearing" into CIA Custody: Part One of a Two-Part Series
In Part One of a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the case of Marwan Jabour as an example of the CIA's practice of kidnapping people and holding them in secret prisons abroad. Jabour, a Palestinian who was studying in Pakistan, says that after he was arrested in Pakistani, he ended up being flown to a secret CIA prison, where he says he was tortured and kept in solitary confinement for over two years. Relatedly, Mariner notes the U.S.'s troubling refusal to sign the Convention against Enforced Disappearances, to which sixty other countries became signatories last month.
Monday, Mar. 05, 2007

Europe's Investigations of the CIA's Crimes
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the current situation with respect to investigation and possible prosecution of alleged crimes by the CIA: While such investigations have occurred in Europe and Canada, in America they are nonexistent. Mariner explains the details of the European and Canadian investigations, and argues that the potential for embarrassment cannot be the entire explanation for America's decision not to investigate -- for other countries have gone forward despite their own complicity with the CIA, and thus the potential that they too could be shamed and embarrassed.
Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007

CIA Detainees: First the Crime, then the Cover-up
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the CIA program of secret detention and interrogation of detainees. Mariner takes the Bush Administration to task for rendering "Classified" information that very likely would reveal a wide gap between the President's descriptions of the program, and the reality of the facts as they occurred. As she explains, waterboarding and other severe and illegal techniques strongly appear to have been covered up by the use of the "Classified" categorization in a variety of contexts. Yet the Administration is working to silence detainees from discussing even the abuses they suffered at its hands.
Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007

Saddam's Justice
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner comments on the execution of Saddam Hussein. Covering the trial, the recent appeal, and the worldwide impact of the verdict, Mariner argues that the execution will ultimately be viewed as a setback for human rights, and the rule of law.
Wednesday, Jan. 03, 2007

The Israeli Supreme Court Rules on "Targeted Killings": Part One of a Two-Part Series
In the first in a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Israeli Supreme Court's recent decision on Israel's policy as to "targeted killings." As Mariner notes, the case asked, Are killings of suspected terrorists in the Occupied Territories illegal assassination attempts, or legal killings of enemy combatants in wartime? Such killings have cost many lives of innocent civilians, as well as those of terrorist suspects. Mariner explains the Court's answer -- which, she argues, while it did not ban targeted killings outright, hardly endorsed them -- imposing significant constraints on the use of targeted killings. She also notes several respects in which the opinion is relevant to the U.S.
Friday, Dec. 22, 2006

Air America Revisited
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses Stephen Grey's new book, Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program. Among the practices Grey's book reports, Mariner notes, is the practice of rendition (the U.S.'s sending a detainee to another country to be brutally tortured there outside of the law and without any shard of due process protection). Mariner explains how Grey was able to connect the patterns of CIA planes' flights to Egypt, Uzbekistan, Libya and Guantanamo to the practice of rendition. While applauding the book as excellent and well-researched, Mariner also looks to the future for another work (or an updated version of this one) that would cover secret CIA prisons, as well.
Wednesday, Dec. 06, 2006

Four Good Reasons Why Guantanamo Should Be Closed
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner outlines a strong case for closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. She contends that not only is indefinite detention without trial deeply unfair to the detainees, and contrary to the American system of justice, but it is also against our national interest to keep Guantanamo open. In particular, she urges, Guantanamo and the reports of abuse that have emerged from it, are hurting the U.S. in its attempts to combat terrorism. She contrasts the treatment of enemy POWs during World War II with the treatment of Guantanamo detainees today.
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006

The CIA, the MCA, and Detainee Abuse
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the relationship between the system of secret CIA prisons that the Bush Administration has now admitted exists, and the recent passage of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006. She argues that the MCA was motivated not by the need to prosecute terrorists, as the Administration claims, but rather by the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. That decision, she contends, convinced the Administration that it needed to attempt to protect CIA torturers, and those in the CIA responsible for suspect "disappearances," from the potential consequences of their Geneva Conventions violations, including possible criminal prosecution. And, she says, the MCA represents just such an attempt to insulate CIA torturers and kidnappers from liability.
Wednesday, Nov. 08, 2006

The Military Commissions Act of 2006: A Short Primer
Part Two of a Two-Part Series

In the second of two columns on the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner contends that the MCA blesses policies that are dangerous, short-sighted, and provide fodder for those who seek to recruit new terrorists. She focuses, in particular, on the MCA's attempt to opens the door to what would, in effect, be redefinitions of basic Geneva Conventions protections, and its purported nullification of the Geneva Conventions in domestic court proceedings. The upshot, she explains, is that CIA abuses -- such as waterboarding or extensive sleep deprivation -- may remain as unprosecuted violations of the Conventions. She also criticizes the MCA's provisions stripping all non-citizen detainees of the traditional right to file habeas corpus petitions. She argues that the post-election Congress ought to repeal the MCA.
Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006

The Military Commissions Act of 2006: A Short Primer
Part One of a Two-Part Series

In Part One of a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses some of the most important provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. She focuses, in particular, on how the bill defines "unlawful enemy combatant," and what the military commissions the MCA would create would really look like, in terms of their rules of procedure and evidence (including those relating to classified evidence), as well as the list of alleged crimes on which they could pass judgment.
Monday, Oct. 09, 2006

Gagging the Detainees
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the proposed Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) of 2005 -- and in particular, the provisions of the bill that would prevent CIA detainees from ever discussing past abuses. Mariner explains that we are still somewhat in the dark about the details of the CIA's use of several practices -- such as water-boarding, threats to detainees' innocent young children, and mock burials, which are known to have been authorized, but may or may not have been used. With Guantanamo detainees' attorneys' remarks already potentially censored in declassification review, and the DTA itself attempting to strip courts of jurisdiction over detainees' cases, Mariner argues that the detainee "gag" provisions are part of a larger plan to silence accounts of torture.
Tuesday, Sep. 26, 2006

An Alternative Set of Interrogation Procedures
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner, on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, discusses the President's recent defense of an "alternative set of [interrogation] procedures" that he deemed "tough" and "necessary." Mariner argues that the President -- exploiting the upcoming 9/11 anniversary -- was attempting to defend American practices of torture, based on an argument that the ends justify the means. She contends that the President can only claim America does not practice torture, by defining "torture" far too narrowly, and that it's clear that brutal practices like water-boarding and other methods that inflict severe pain, still continue to be used. She also argues that the military commissions the President is proposing are no more than kangaroo courts.
Monday, Sep. 11, 2006

The Forgotten Detainee
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the situation of detainee Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been indefinitely detained since mid-2003 because he is deemed an "enemy combatant," and whose habeas corpus petition is now proceeding through the courts, with a district court decision recently handed down. Al-Marri -- a Qatari citizen who was lawfully in the U.S. as a student -- was initially charged only with charged with credit card fraud, making false statements, and the like, until the charges were dropped and he was moved into military detention and deemed an Al Qaeda "sleeper" agent. Mariner argues that Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld -- which dealt with an apparent Taliban fighter picked up in Afghanistan -- doesn't cover al-Marri. She also cites a possible ulterior motive for the U.S.'s opting to move al-Marri into military detention.
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006

In Search of a "Solid Defense" to War Crimes Charges
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Bush Administration's proposed amendments to the War Crimes Act, a statute that makes violations of the laws of war federal crimes. Mariner argues that the proposed amendments are merely an attempt to provide impunity for government abuses toward "war on terror" detainees -- and that the Administration would be far better served by complying with the law, than by trying to change it.
Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006

Military Commissions Redux
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the hearsay evidence provisions of the White House's draft legislation relating to detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere. As Mariner explains, the proposed legislation, if enacted, would reinstate military commissions -- recently invalidated by the Supreme Court. (The legislation would also allow for the indefinite detention of those the Administration deems "enemy combatants.") Mariner argues that the proposal's hearsay provisions for the proposed commissions' proceedings are utterly unacceptable -- a travesty of justice.
Wednesday, Aug. 02, 2006

It All Depends on What You Mean by Battlefield . . .
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that, in Congressional hearings relating to the Guantanamo detainees, it was inappropriate and inapposite to raise "battlefield capture" arguments -- that is, contentions that soldiers can't act like police, and that those captured in battle can't expect to be treated like civilian criminal defendants. Mariner points out that a significant proportion -- roughly one-third -- of the Guantanamo detainees were picked up far from any battlefield; instead, they were arrested by police at private homes, airports, or police stations. She supports her point with specific details about particular arrests and detainees.
Tuesday, Jul. 18, 2006

Guantanamo's Waning Days
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses when, and how, the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay -- which still holds about 460 people --will close. Mariner considers the question of what to do with those detainees who reasonably fear torture or other abuse in the country to which they would be returned, and therefore prefer not to be sent there. For instance, should European countries take on some of the burden of accepting these detainees? Mariner also considers the symbolic importance of closing Guantanamo, heavily criticized here and overseas as a failed experiment.
Monday, Jun. 19, 2006

Guantanamo's Orange Jumpsuit Justice
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses calls for the shutdown of the U.S.'s Guantanamo Bay "war on terror" detainee facility. In particular, she focuses on the significance of President Bush's remark that he, too, would like to close down the facility -- but only after a Supreme Court decision as to whether the detainees should be tried by civilian courts or military commissions. Mariner points out that signs strongly indicate only a minority of detainees will be prosecuted, meaning that the fate of the others has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, it appears those who are not prosecuted will remain detained indefinitely, on the basis of secret evidence they cannot challenge.
Wednesday, May. 24, 2006

Uighurs in Albania
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the case of five Uighurs -- Turkish Muslims from China -- who were detained at Guantanamo, then sent, somewhat bizarrely, to Albania when China refused to let them return. Mariner also explains the proceedings in the federal court case brought by two of the Uighurs, and points out that this story illustrates the problem of those Guanatamo detainees who cannot be returned home for various reasons -- even though they have been determined not to be "enemy combatants," or to be low-risk enough to be released.
Friday, May. 12, 2006

Sanctioning Inaction on Darfur
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the U.S. decision to seek, this week, a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution to impose sanctions on those who are worsening the conflict in western Sudan. Mariner contends that the vote may be most meaningful as a bellwether: It may indicate whether the U.N. will ever be able to confront far tougher upcoming choices regarding Darfur. Mariner assesses what the Security Council has done thus far (through inquiry and sanctions committes), and failed to do, with respect to Darfur. She argues that the human rights crisis there demands strategy and action -- and the sooner, the better.
Monday, Apr. 24, 2006

A September 11 Stand-in
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner focuses on the controversial sentencing proceedings of Zacarias Moussaoui. Mariner asks why this bit player's trial is, to date, the only criminal court proceeding relating to the attacks -- even though Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was, according to the 9/11 Commission, "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks," and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, accused of being the operation's paymaster, are reportedly in U.S. custody, and thus could also be charged and tried. (Instead, both reportedly are being held in secret CIA detention abroad indefinitely, where leaked information suggests they've faced brutal torture and abuse.) Mariner points out the two men are being held in "a legal black hole," as the result of having been "disappeared" in a manner reminiscent of the worst abuses of dictatorships.
Monday, Mar. 27, 2006

Sex, Violence, and Military Justice
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner focuses on ironic recent events relating to U.S. military justice. In particular, she points out that while officials culpable in the deaths and torture of detainees in U.S. custody remain unpunished, the military is cracking down on soldiers who engaged in consensual gay sex that was shown on the Internet. Drawing on a recent Human Rights First report, she details horrific abuses of those in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan -- abuses that remain unpunished or underpunished, with the longest sentence for a torture-related death, a mere five months in jail. In contrast, the soldiers in the gay sex video face five years in jail.
Wednesday, Mar. 01, 2006

Handpicked Judges
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner examines a recently-issued ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a terrorism-related perjury case. As she explains, the decision represented a loss for prosecutors who had sought to oust a federal district judge from hearing the case. Mariner criticizes the government's approach as an improper encroachment on judicial independence, and argues that the court's decision was the correct one -- affirming the fundamental principle that when the government loses, it cannot simply go to a new judge to try to get an opposite ruling.
Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2006

Terrorism, the New Global Security Agenda, and the Human Rights Movement
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the recent, sustained global focus on security -- in particular, security against terrorism -- and the threat it poses that human rights gains will be reversed. Not only are Western democracies adopting rights-infringing practices that they once decried, Mariner notes, but their movement towards restricted rights and liberties may have a global impact -- with other countries labeling dissidents "terrorists" and using the label as justification to refuse to recognize rights. While the dangers of terrorism are surely real and grave in some cases, Mariner argues, a fair balance between security concerns and human rights must be struck
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006

Bringing Torture into Court
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner evaluates the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which is likely to become law this week. As Mariner explains, although the law includes the McCain Amendment -- which is aimed at protecting detainees from torture and other forms of abuse -- it also includes a number of provisions that, she argues, undercut McCain's protections. In particular, she takes strong issue with a provision that, she argues, implies that coerced confessions (that is, confessions procured through torture and other coercive means) can be used against detainees in quasi-judicial proceedings relating to "enemy combatant" classification if they are found to be probative.
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005

Stonewalling on CIA Abuses in Europe
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's refusal to provide a substantive, factual response to the European Union's request for details regarding possible Europe-related activities of the reported CIA secret prison network. The EU's request comes in the context of its inquiry to figure out whether international law was violated, within its jurisdiction, in connection with the network. Rice did promise that the U.S. would not use torture -- but Mariner argues that this promise offers only cold comfort, in light of the U.S.'s current, narrow definition of what counts as torture, and of the scope of the relevant treaties.
Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2005

Facilitating Abuse
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner evaluates two controversial proposed amendments to a current defense spending bill: the McCain amendment, which would ban the "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of those in U.S. custody, and the Graham-Levin amendment, which would strip federal courts of the ability to review claims of violent physical abuse by Guantanamo detainees. Mariner argues that the McCain amendment won't do much good if passed in tandem with the Graham-Levin amendment, for the latter deny courts the right to enforce the McCain's amendment's standard, and thus make that standard toothless. She contends that McCain alone ought to become law.
Friday, Nov. 25, 2005

Now Playing at an Undisclosed Location Near You
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that the President should neither veto, nor push for modifications to, a Senate bill -- sponsored by Senator McCain -- that would ban the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in U.S. custody. The bill would establish the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for interrogation of detainees. Mariner points out that with the military itself acknowledging that eighty-six detainees have died while in U.S. custody, with the deaths including at least twenty-six homicides, the need for clear ground rules for interrogation is especially crucial. And she notes that the bill, as currently written, enjoys the support of, among others, Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. John Shalikashvili, two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005

Of Bad Apples, Scapegoats, and the Camera's Eye
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the larger context of the Lynndie England prisoner abuse case -- in which a military jury recently issued a guilty verdict. Mariner argues that it's important to examine how the abuse could have happened, and why it did. She contends that the testimony of Captain Ian Fishback, a U.S. Army officer who witnessed systematic abuses in Iraq, shows that the acts for which England was convicted were no isolated aberration.
Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2005

The Unjust Detention of Jose Padilla
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner takes strong issue with the result and reasoning of a recent federal appellate decision affirming the legality of the detention of Jose Padilla. Padilla, an American citizen, is alleged to have plotted with others to set off a "dirty bomb" in the United States. But, as Mariner points out, neither these allegations, nor Padilla's alleged "enemy combatant" status, have ever been tested in court. Mariner argues that the appeals court's decision misinterprets the meaning of the Supreme Court's precedent of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.
Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2005

Paramilitary Demobilizations in Colombia
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses why paramilitary demobilizations occurring recently in Colombia have been less than successful. Mariner contends that the country's demobilization laws, crucially, fail to include mechanisms for dismantling the groups' underlying criminal structures, reducing their political power, and seizing their wealth. As a result, she notes, the country cannot claim to have truly reformed the killers and drug-traffickers who are now being deemed "peace coordinators," and even running for office.
Tuesday, Aug. 02, 2005

Bringing Justice to Darfur
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner examines the progress of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating and prosecuting the atrocities in Darfur. She notes that, as part of a likely plan to challenge the ICC's jurisdiction, the Sudanese government has established a special court that it claims will try Darfur's war criminals. In her view, however, such a court would be neither willing nor able to prosecute the senior Sudanese officials implicated in the region's crimes.
Monday, Jun. 20, 2005

Investing in Atrocity: The Cost of Doing Business with Khartoum
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the growing movement -- in state legislatures and at colleges -- to divest stock from companies that do business in the Sudan, as a way to protest the atrocities and continuing devastation there. Mariner focuses, in particular, on Illinois' lawmakers' efforts, which she commends. She also parallels this modern divestment movement with the earlier movement to divest from companies doing business in apartheid-era South Africa -- and notes the success of the latter movement.
Wednesday, May. 25, 2005

Rumsfeld and Abu Ghraib
A year after the release of photos showing U.S. soldiers beating and sexually humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner examines whether justice is being done for those crimes. She notes that while low-ranking soldiers have faced criminal prosecution, top civilian and military leaders have not. Reviewing evidence of their responsibility for abuses, she recommends that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others like him -- those who made policies, gave orders, and condoned or ignored abuses -- be investigated too.
Monday, Apr. 25, 2005

Dim Prospects for Justice in Iraq
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Iraqi Special Tribunal -- the court that will try the former leadership of Saddam Hussein's government, including Saddam himself. Mariner argues that the Iraqi Special Tribunal's contemplated procedures fall short of guaranteeing each accused due process -- by, for example, failing to fully and timely honor the right to counsel and the right to remain silent, and by allowing trial in absentia. Mariner explains the differences between the courts as they are currently planned, and as they might have been had human rights groups' advice been heeded.
Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2005

Countdown on Darfur
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a draft resolution, scheduled to be voted on at the U.N. Security Council today, that would send the perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). She notes that the measure has wide support on the Security Council, but the possibility of a U.S. veto makes its passage uncertain. In her view, the need for rapid and effective action on Darfur mandates the referral of the case to the ICC.
Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2005

Playing Politics with Visas
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner analyzes the case of Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan historian and former Sandinista official who was recently denied a U.S. visa. Tellez was barred from entering the U.S. for her purported involvement in terrorist acts, but Mariner argues that the decision to bar Tellez had little to do with national security and everything to do with politics.
Monday, Mar. 14, 2005

Power and Law: A New Ruling in the Padilla Case
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner reviews Monday's ruling in the case of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, held in indefinite detention in South Carolina. In an important victory for civil liberties, the district court found that Padilla's detention was not authorized by law, or by the president's inherent constitutional authority. As Mariner explains, the ruling touched on separation of powers principles, the difference between battlefields and civilian settings, and - in a couple of brief but compelling references -- underlying civil liberties concerns.
Wednesday, Mar. 02, 2005

Giving Colombia's Paramilitaries What They Want
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner examines the ongoing debate in Colombia over the demobilization of violent paramilitary groups. Noting that the country's paramilitary leaders include notorious drug kingpins and vicious murderers, she warns that the government's approach to demobilization appears likely to lead to amnesty and "forgiveness."
Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005

Deadly Delay on Darfur
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner argues that the United States is wrong to oppose the recommendation of the U.N.'s special commission on the crisis in Darfur. (The special commission has advised that the situation immediately be referred to the International Criminal Court, which could initiate prosecutions of the perpetrators.) Mariner contends that even if the U.S. will not drop its general opposition to the ICC, it should make an exception in light of what it has admitted is ongoing genocide.
Wednesday, Feb. 02, 2005

Outsourcing Detention
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner describes the case of Ahmed Abu Ali, a twenty-three-year-old American citizen who has been detained for 18 months without charges in Saudi Arabia. Last week, a U.S. district court issued a ruling citing evidence suggesting that U.S. officials orchestrated Abu Ali's arrest, that the U.S. government is behind his continued detention, and that the reason the U.S. is keeping Abu Ali in Saudi Arabia is to avoid the scrutiny of the federal courts.
Monday, Dec. 20, 2004

How the Abusive Protect the Repressive at the U.N.
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner notes that a number of countries with records of human rights abuses -- including Sudan, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia -- are also members of the U.N. body whose job it is to monitor and prevent human rights violations. Rather than taking action against these violations, she charges, these countries' main focus is on protecting themselves from condemnation. She critiques a just-released official U.N. report that purports to address this problem, concluding that its proposed solution won't work.
Monday, Dec. 06, 2004

Grand Words, Idle Threats, and Missed Deadlines on Darfur
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner takes a critical look at the U.N.'s latest effort to stop the violence in Darfur. She concludes that the new Security Council resolution, passed on Friday, will do little to improve the situation there. Although it expresses rhetorical concern at the "growing insecurity and violence" in Darfur, she contends that it is, in substance, even more toothless than its two predecessors.
Monday, Nov. 22, 2004

The Scalia Court
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses what the Supreme Court may look like if, as many expect, President Bush has one or more opportunities over the next four years to nominate a new Justice and/or a new Chief Justice. Mariner suggests Antonin Scalia might well be President Bush's top pick for Chief Justice -- and notes that while Democrats would likely filibuster in response to the nomination, Republicans might be able to change Senate rules in a way that would enable them to push Scalia through. She also considers what the Court might be like if Scalia were indeed to become Chief Justice.
Monday, Nov. 08, 2004

Rape in Darfur
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses an important aspect of the genocide and other atrocities occurring in Sudan: the use of rape of women and girls as a weapon of war. Mariner, who recently visited Sudan, discusses the Sudanese government's failure to prosecute the perpetrators and its denial that widespread rape occurred. Mariner also notes that while rape -- when used (as it is in Darfur) to terrorize families and communities -- is considered a war crime by international law, enforcement is still rare.
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004

Talking about Darfur: Is Genocide Just a Word?
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the recent statement by Colin Powell deeming atrocities committed in the Darfur region of Western Sudan to be an instance of "genocide." Mariner contends that what is of overwhelming importance here, however, is not semantics but practical reality: Why isn't more being done to put an end to the ongoing "ethnic cleansing" and crimes against humanity by the Sudanese government? Mariner contends that the world should have taken note of the situation in Darfur much earlier, and that while Powell claims his deeming the atrocities "genocide" does not require action, international law is directly to the contrary.
Monday, Sep. 13, 2004

While Darfur Burns
FindLaw columnist and human rights lawyer Joanne Mariner describes the human rights crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, where government forces and allied Janjaweed militias are responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and "ethnic cleansing." Noting that the U.N. Security Council is meeting today to consider whether it should take punitive measures against Sudan, she recommends that it lend the U.N.'s imprimatur to an international peacekeeping force to protect Darfur's civilian population.
Monday, Aug. 30, 2004

The Supreme Court, the Detainees, and the "War on Terrorism"
FindLaw columnist and human rights lawyer Joanne Mariner discusses the Supreme Court's rulings in the three detainee cases decided last week. Examining the impact of these decisions on the Bush Administration's broad claims of power to fight a "war on terrorism," she explains how Justice O'Connor's opinion in the Hamdi case suggests a reluctance to embrace such a radical position. She also explains that even though the Court's various opinions fail to set out a complete framework of its views on counter-terrorism, they offer tantalizing hints of the justices' leanings.
Monday, Jul. 05, 2004

Court-Packing in Venezuela
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner notes an interesting parallel between American history and Venezuelan current events. Students of American history are familiar with FDR's threat to pack -- that is, add extra judges to -- the U.S. Supreme Court, which had been striking down New Deal legislation. As Mariner explains, Venezuela now has its own court-packing controversy -- thanks to a new law dramatically expanding the country's Supreme Court from twenty to thirty-two members, and making the removal of current judges far easier than it had been.
Monday, Jun. 21, 2004

Remembering Tiananmen Square
Just after the fifteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Chinese government's hostility to any remembrance of the event; recounts the views of Tiananmen activists whom Human Rights Watch has now been able to interview; and describes what a satisfactory response by the Chinese government to this event might look like.
Monday, Jun. 07, 2004

Private Contractors Who Torture
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the options for prosecuting civilian contractors accused of abusing Iraqi detainees. While there is a slim possibility of local prosecutions in Iraq, she concludes that most likely option is trial in the U.S. federal courts under the War Crimes Act of 1996 or the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000. But, she notes, the odds of successful prosecutions are not very promising.
Monday, May. 10, 2004

Policy Wars:
A Review of John Shattuck's Freedom on Fire

FindLaw book reviewer and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner reviews Clinton Administration human rights official and self-described "human rights hawk" John Shattuck's recent book, Freedom on Fire. The book details Shattuck's experiences with trying to make human rights progress despite bureaucratic infighting and other obstacles, and offers specific analyses of how the Administration grappled with Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, and China. Mariner comments on his efforts, and notes whether the Iraq War would fulfill his criteria for humanitarian intervention.
Friday, May. 07, 2004

What the Asterisks Can't Hide:
Problems with the Fourth Circuit's Opinion in the Moussaoui Case

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner assesses the much-anticipated ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. She explains the Solomonic quality of the ruling, which defers to both the government's and the defendant's interests. But she also notes that what is left out of the court's opinion is as important as what is contained in it.
Monday, Apr. 26, 2004

Partial Justice in Haiti
FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner, who recently returned from a Human Rights Watch mission to Haiti, reports on conditions there. She notes a troubling disparity in the way the new government is approaching past human rights crimes: Aristide-era abuses will be prosecuted, but abuses from the military era have so far been ignored.
Monday, Apr. 12, 2004

Witness Unavailable:
How the U.S. Hinders Terrorism Prosecutions Abroad

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner describes how the United States has hindered other countries' efforts to bring terrorists to justice. By holding key terrorism suspects like Ramzi bin al-Shibh in incommunicado detention, and denying court requests for their testimony, the U.S. has already derailed prosecutions in Germany. Similar problems have arisen recently in Indonesia, and potentially in Spain, as well. Assessing these setbacks, Mariner calls on the U.S. to uphold judicial processes, not thwart them.
Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2004

Haiti: The Past Is Prologue
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the U.S. role in Haiti a decade ago, and now -- with particular attention to the prosecution of human rights crimes. In 1994, says Mariner, the U.S. not only failed to promote, but in some ways impeded the prosecution of such crimes. And now, she explains, the perpetrators of those past abuses are back, as part of the insurgent forces -- giving the U.S. a chance to either try to right past wrongs, or to exacerbate them.
Monday, Mar. 01, 2004

Gay Rights Without Borders
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner summarizes landmark gay rights precedents from regional, international and foreign courts. Noting that the U.S. Supreme Court made explicit reference to such rulings in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision striking down Texas's gay sodomy law, she urges U.S. judges to consider the logic and reasoning of these rulings when facing other gay rights issues.
Monday, Feb. 16, 2004

Anita Bryant Lives:
Florida's Continuing Assault on Gay Adoption

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses last week's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld Florida's anti-gay-adoption law. Mariner contends that the ruling's logic is not only mistaken, but is a throwback to Anita Bryant's homophobic view that gays were recruiting children. She also argues that its reasoning is in tension with that of the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling that struck down Texas's anti-gay-sodomy law.
Monday, Feb. 02, 2004

Remember Roe:
The 31st Anniversary of a Landmark Ruling

Joanne Mariner Remembering Roe FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses abortion in America thirty-one years after Roe v. Wade. Mariner explains why, even though the right to abortion is formally protected, some poor women remain unable to obtain abortions, and obstacles to abortion are mounting. Mariner also takes strong issue with the notion that abortion inevitably causes emotional trauma.
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004

Interrogation, Torture, the Constitution, and the Courts
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Bush Administration's claim that the federal court have no jurisdiction to examine physical abuses committed against detainees held on Guantanamo or in other locations abroad. During oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case involving Guantanamo, government counsel asserted that jurisdiction should be foreclosed even if the plaintiffs were to claim that their captors were committing "acts of torture" or were "summarily executing the detainees."
Monday, Jan. 05, 2004

Battlefield Chicago?
In the Jose Padilla Case, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Says No

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses an extremely important recent ruling in the case of Jose Padilla. Padilla is the American citizen who is accused of being a dirty-bomb co-conspirator; after being arrested in Chicago, he has been held incommunicado for the past eighteen months in a military brig. The Bush Administration has argued that Padilla is an "enemy combatant," but a federal appeals court rejected that contention.
Monday, Dec. 22, 2003

A Guantanamo-Size Hole in the Constitution
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner looks at the situation of detainees on Guantanamo. Labeling Cuban sovereignty over Guantanamo a theoretical abstraction, she focuses on the practical reality of U.S. control over the territory. Mariner concludes by urging that the Supreme Court should affirm the federal courts' power over Guantanamo, on the ground that the courts should have jurisdiction whenever and wherever the U.S. government imprisons someone.
Monday, Dec. 01, 2003

Profit Margins, Death Rates, Drug Patents and HIV/AIDS
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner criticizes the U.S.'s lone "No" vote on a U.N. resolution passed last week. The resolution seeks to ensure the availability of drugs needed for treating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Focusing on HIV/AIDS treatment, Mariner describes how the U.S. is helping drug companies in their fight to limit the availability of life-saving generic forms of drugs.
Monday, Nov. 24, 2003

Moussaoui and the Hidden Detainees
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses how at least a dozen (and potentially many more) terrorist suspects -- including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah -- are being detained by the U.S. military in "undisclosed locations." Pointing to the dangers of indefinite, long-term detention of suspects outside of judicial supervision, Mariner contends that it is high time for the courts to step in to address their situation. She explains how the Moussaoui case offers the first opportunity for the courts to do this.
Monday, Nov. 10, 2003

Prisons as Mental Institutions
The Mass Incarceration of the Mentally Ill

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner explains why, over the past several decades, many mentally ill persons who might earlier have been institutionalized have instead been incarcerated. She contends that the trend of imprisoning the mentally ill, rather than providing them with appropriate mental health care, harms the prisoners and shames our society. Drawing on a recent Human Rights Watch report, Mariner argues that the need for reform -- such as the pending Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act -- is urgent.
Monday, Oct. 27, 2003

Saving Endangered Wildlife by Killing It?
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner takes aim at a new Bush Administration environmental policy. The policy, as Mariner explains, will -- if implemented -- allow American hunters, zoos, circuses and others to kill, capture, and import wildlife that is facing extinction in other countries. Mariner argues the policy will only open the door to corruption and mistreatment of endangered or threatened species.
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2003

Children Killing Children in Colombia
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the problem of child soldiers in Colombia -- where both guerrilla and paramilitary groups employ boys and girls as young as twelve or thirteen as combatants.  Mariner explains how these groups exploit children's desperation, using them as cannon fodder and violating the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Monday, Sep. 29, 2003

Married with Children?
The Impact of Lawrence v. Texas on Child Custody, Visitation, and Adoption

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner explores the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas for questions of child custody, visitation, and adoption. By removing a crucial legal basis for the courts’ hostility toward gay parents, she argues, Lawrence makes discrimination against gay parents much harder to justify.
Monday, Sep. 15, 2003

Argentina, Peru, & Chile:
Truth, Justice & Reconciliation In Latin America

FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses "truth and reconciliation" in Latin America. Her examples are drawn from Peru's recently-released truth and reconciliation report, and Chile's investigation of the atrocities of the Pinochet regime. Mariner takes issue with the idea of "truth not justice," under which truth-telling alone can guarantee amnesty.
Wednesday, Sep. 03, 2003

Israel's New Citizenship Law:
A Separation Wall Through the Heart

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner critiques Israel's new law on marriage and citizenship, the "Nationality and Entry into Israel Law."  Mariner contends that the law will unfairly compel thousands of Israeli Arabs to choose, in effect, between their country and their spouse.  She also argues that its purported justification -- terrorism prevention -- is insufficient to justify the law.
Monday, Aug. 11, 2003

Stopping Prison Rape
FindLaw colummist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which passed the House and Senate and now goes to President Bush for his signature.  Mariner believes that the Act will require corrections authorities to begin to take the problem of rape seriously, which, in her view, will be an important step forward.
Monday, Jul. 28, 2003

Monsieur Moussaoui
(And How a Defendant's Nationality May Determine the Quality of his Trial)

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the role that Zacarias Moussaoui's French citizenship may play in his fate.  Mariner examines the international controversy over the propect that Britons and Australians detained on Guantanamo may be tried before military commissions -- a controversy that is complicated by the fact that they are citizens of close U.S. allies.  She parallels these complaints with an examination of the Moussaoui prosecution, and the possibility that he, too, will be tried by a military commission.
Monday, Jul. 21, 2003

Defendants, Not Combatants:
Federal Courts, Not Military Commissions

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the prospect of prosecuting terrorist crimes before military commissions. Examining the successful prosecution of “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, she criticizes the Bush Administration’s reliance on military commissions to try crimes that belong in the federal courts.  Particularly worrisome, in her view, is the administration’s recent decision to transfer criminal defendant Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri into military custody.
Monday, Jul. 07, 2003

Rehnquist Family Values:
The Supreme Court's Misguided Decision in Overton v. Bazzetta

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner critiques last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Overton v. Bazzetta.  She concludes that the decision, in which the Court unanimously upheld highly restrictive prison visiting policies, reflects a callous disregard for prisoners’  right to associate with their families, including their minor children.
Tuesday, Jun. 24, 2003

Rebellious Judges
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the phenomenon of judges who rebel against the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Mariner discusses different judicial styles of disagreeing with the Court, from subtle to outright -- such as the Alabama judge who declared that the Court had "erred in its reading of history," and the foreign judge who, appalled at U.S practices, complained, "[m]y independence as a judge would be completely undermined if I had to follow the decisions of the court of appeals."
Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2003

Ashcroft's Justice, Burma's Crimes, and Bork's Revenge
FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses the Bush Administration's position on the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA).  As Mariner explains, the ATCA, as previously interpreted, allows victims of serious abuses of human rights abroad to sue perpetrators in U.S. federal courts.  But the Bush Administration has interpreted the ATCA far more restrictively, relying on a position previously espoused by then-Judge Robert Bork.
Monday, May. 26, 2003

Trivializing Terrorism
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the U.S.'s decision last week to add three Basque nationalist groups to an official list of terrorist groups.  Mariner argues that the U.S. move was meant to reward Spain for its support of the Iraq war, and is part of a pattern of using terrorist designations in a political manner.
Tuesday, May. 13, 2003

Ticking Time Bombs in Iraq:
Cluster Bombs and Their Continuing Dangers

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the use of cluster bombs by the U.S. military.  Drawing upon Human Rights Watch reports, Mariner argues that the bombs --which disperse many smaller "bomblets" -- pose special dangers to civilians (and children in particular), and thus should not be used.  She evaluates the U.S.'s use of such bombs in the recent Iraq war.
Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2003

Liberation and Looting in Iraq
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner examines the ransacking of Iraq's National Museum, in which countless artifacts were stolen or destroyed.  Reviewing the actions of U.S. troops in light of the laws of war, she concludes that the evidence of negligence is compelling, and responsibility under international law is thus clear.
Monday, Apr. 14, 2003

War Means (Almost) Never Having to Say You're Sorry:
Civilian Deaths and Official Apologies

FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses the U.S.. government's approach to civilian deaths during armed conflict.  What can the families of Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq expect, if anything, from the U.S.. government?   In other contexts, what types of civilians deaths has the U.S. apologized -- and not apologized for? Mariner explains.
Monday, Mar. 24, 2003

Ducking the First Amendment:
Richard Perle's Planned Lawsuit against Seymour Hersh

FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses senior Pentagon advisor Richard Perle's plan to sue journalist Seymour Hersh for libel. The suit would be based on Hersh's recent New Yorker article regarding Perle and his business dealings. Perle has said he would sue in Britain -- which lacks strong free speech protections -- despite the fact that Perle and Hersh are Americans and The New Yorker is published in the U.S.
Monday, Mar. 17, 2003

Patriot II's Attack on Citizenship
FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses the historical and legal context surrounding one particularly controversional provision of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, the proposed followup to the USA Patriot Act.  The provision would allow U.S. citizens more easily, and on more grounds, to be stripped of citizenship.  Mariner argues that it literally hearkens back to the days of McCarthyism.
Monday, Mar. 03, 2003

The Lessons of My Lai:
A Review of Michal Belknap's The Vietnam War on Trial

FindLaw book reviewer and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner assesses a recent book on the My Lai massacre and the subsequent prosecution of Lieutenant William Calley. Mariner notes that, with war on Iraq apparently impending, the book's lessons on the difficulty of distinguishing civilians from soldiers in the context of battle, and some officers' indifference to doing so, may be relevant today as well.
Friday, Feb. 28, 2003

Pets As Property?
Findlaw columnist and human rights lawyer Joanne Mariner examines a series of recent laws that aim to redefine the legal status of pets.  Categorizing pets as "companion animals" and pet owners as "guardians," such laws reject the traditional notion of pets as property. Mariner argues they are right to do so.
Monday, Feb. 17, 2003

A Fair Trial for Moussaoui
FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner assesses arecent ruling in the criminal prosecution of alleged September 11co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.  The ruling allows Moussaoui accessto a person he claims will be an exculpatory witness: alleged terroristRamzi bin al-Shibh.  Mariner notes that the ruling is likely toreinforce the Bush Administration's reported interest in transferringthe case to military tribunal.
Monday, Feb. 03, 2003


FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner analyzes the recent appellate court ruling upholding the indefinite, incommunicado detention of alleged "enemy combatant" and U.S. citizen Yasir Hamdi. Among other critiques of the opinion Mariner notes that based on its broad reasoning, any journalist, aid worker, or human rights investigator found in Afghanistan could be detained indefinitely as an enemy combatant.
Monday, Jan. 20, 2003


FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner, responding to two recent columns by Professors Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar, analyzes the proper role of past precedent in constitutional adjudication. Taking issue with the Amars' approach, Mariner argues that stare decisis establishes a dialogue between past and present Supreme Courts as to the nature of the Constitution's dictates.
Monday, Jan. 06, 2003

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses Israel's policy against exempting conscientious objectors from mandatory Army service.. The policy has landed even Benjamin Netanyahu's nephew, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, in jail indefinitely.  Mariner also discusses the situation of refuseniks: those who will serve in the Army, but not in the Occupied Territories; and how U.S. courts have treated analogous cases.
Monday, Dec. 23, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses a possible connection between the Bush Administration's position in a case argued before the Supreme Court last week, and the fate of Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, two American citizens currently held indefinitely and incommunicado in military prisons as "enemy combatants."  The Administration's position, Mariner explains, holds that there is not really a "right to remain silent" as the Miranda decision suggested.
Monday, Dec. 09, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner reviews the history of the Senate filibuster, particularly as it has been relied upon to block judicial nominees, and assesses current prospects for its use. Concluding that it is a legitimate tactic in certain circumstances, she urges the Senate to consider using the filibuster to prevent the confirmation of President Bush's most right-wing judicial nominees.
Monday, Nov. 25, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner critically assesses Attorney General Ashcroft's recent announcement that the drug war and the war on terrorism have been joined. She examines the ramifications of the proclaimed merger and, in particular, the shift toward military tactics that it implies.
Monday, Nov. 11, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner assesses the importance of the Pentagon's recent release of four detainees from Guantanamo, three of whom are elderly men, including one who appears to be senile. Questioning the decision-making process that guides detention decisions, Mariner calls for the establishment of a competent tribunal to make an individualized review of detainee cases.
Monday, Nov. 04, 2002


FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner assesses the effects of "abstinence-only" sex education programs, which the Bush Administration is currently trying to expand. Such programs are the subject of Rebecca Schleifer's recent, critical report for Human Rights Watch. Mariner raises questions such as: What is the effect of these programs' censorship of basic information on HIV/AIDS prevention? To what extent is the abstinence-only agenda being urged internationally, too?
Monday, Oct. 14, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner writes about an extremely unusual judicial opinion -- which was issued by federal district judge William G. Young in the case of alleged shoebomber Richard Reid. In the opinion, the judge not only confesses error but also admits "I botched it" -- and goes on to make other surprisingly candid remarks.
Monday, Sep. 30, 2002


FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner reviews Samantha Power's book "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide.Ý Power argues that U.S. authorities repeatedly failed to take needed action to stop mass slaughter, and shows how their reluctance to use the term "genocide" for situations like Rwanda's was connected to their inaction. Power also contends that officials ignored warning signs of genocide, exaggerated the dangers of confronting the situation, and minimized proof of the crime.
Tuesday, Sep. 24, 2002


FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses the Supreme Court's 1909 decision, authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in Moyer v. Peabody. As Mariner explains, Moyer is the main precedent that the Bush Administation has used to justify its detention, without access to counsel or other due process rights, of American citizen Jose Padilla. (Padilla was arrested in Chicago, yet is deemed an "enemy combatant" by the Administration.) Mariner points to the reasons why she believes Moyer does not apply; and explains why it may no longer be good precedent, in any case.
Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2002


FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses current law governing those who are alleged to have provided "material support" to terrorist groups. Mariner critiques the law's failure to allow suspects to prove in court that the group to which they have given money or other support is not, in fact, terrorist. She also surveys recent cases, including the Ujaama, Rahmani, and Hammoud prosecutions, that have involved the "material support" statute.
Monday, Sep. 02, 2002


FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses the case of Abdallah Higazy and its potential ramifications. Higazy is a thirty-year-old Egyptian graduate student with a valid visa. He was detained after a security guard at the Millenium Hilton Hotel, located just across the street from the site of the World Trade Center, claimed to have found an aviation radio in the room where Higazy had stayed on September 11. Later, an American pilot claimed the radio as his own, but not before Higazy -- who was not allowed to be accompanied by his lawyer -- was allegedly intimidated into falsely confessing the radio was his, in order to protect his family. Mariner explains the case's broader significance for government policies of denying those in detention for September 11-related investigations access to counsel.
Monday, Aug. 19, 2002

FindLaw columnist, attorney, and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses an important but little-noted provision of John Walker Lindh's plea agreement: He promises in the agreement not to profit from any book he might write about his experiences in Afghanistan. ÝMariner contends that the provision is both unwise -- for we might learn a great deal from Lindh's narrative -- and unconstitutional -- for the government, she argues, has no legitimate interest to support this infringement on Lindh's First Amendment rights.
Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner contrasts the case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh -- with whom the U.S. government recently entered into a plea agreement -- with that of Yaser Esam Hamdi. Like Lindh, Hamdi is an American citizen; was captured by the U.S. last year in Afghanistan while apparently acting as a member of the Taliban or al Qaeda military forces; and is being held by the U.S. Mariner explains the way in which Hamdi's case is being treated differently from Lindh's, and why it may end up being more important than either Lindh's or Zacarias Moussaoui's.
Monday, Jul. 22, 2002

In Part One of a two-part series on the International Criminal Court, FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner examines two key policy questions: Should the International Criminal Court exist? And, should the U.S. join it? Mariner contends that the answer to both questions is "Yes." She argues that those who think the ICC may be a rogue court should wonder instead whether the U.S. is acting like a rogue state in its efforts to sabotage the court.
Monday, Jul. 08, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights advocate Joanne Mariner discusses draft federal legislation meant to address the national epidemic of prison rape. Mariner surveys evidence, including individual inmates' horrifying stories, that shows the shockingly high incidence of prison rape, and the terrible psychic scars it leaves. She also contends that the proposed legislation, while it should be applauded, is only a step towards solving a problem that amounts to a national shame.
Monday, Jun. 24, 2002

In Part Two of a two part series on the Guantanamo detainees, FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner reviews other countries' experiences with administrative detention, and assesses the legality of the practice under international standards. Mariner addresses the following key question: Can the Administration, under the law, hold detainees indefinitely without trial, for purposes of prevention rather than punishment?
Monday, Jun. 10, 2002

FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the status of the 384 detainees brought from Afghanistan to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Mariner considers the following crucial questions: Given that none of the detainees has yet been criminally charged, and there are reports that the government may lack individualized evidence to support charges against many of them, can they be indefinitely detained until the end of the war on terrorism? And if so, what event will mark the conclusion of this broad and far-ranging war?
Tuesday, May. 28, 2002


FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner discusses the controversial question of what groups should be labeled terrorist. Mariner contrasts the list of terrorist groups compiled by the U.S. with that compiled by the European Union. She also explains how two lists' different treatment of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as the FARC) has underlined the political factors affecting the determination of which groups should be listed.
Monday, May. 13, 2002

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