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Inter-American Commission of Human Rights takes note of FBI repression in annual report

By Kosta Harlan

In its 2010 Annual Report, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), a body of the Organization of American States, noted the FBI and grand jury repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists. The Committee to Stop FBI Repression publicized the IACHR's report in a statement on May 22.

“The raids and subpoenas reflect escalating hostility toward individuals and groups working in solidarity with the Palestinian and Colombian people and are blatantly political attacks on peaceful activists,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, Executive Vice President and International Committee co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild. “The fact that these attacks on free speech, freedom of association and the right to dissent have gained the attention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a welcome development.”

“Such aggressive and politically-motivated rights violation further warrant a thorough investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” Shahshahani added.

The IACHR report contains information about the FBI raids in a section called “Evaluation of the state of freedom of expression in the hemisphere.” The IACHR notes in the introduction to that section:

The right to freedom of expression is a universal right of all individuals, without which the most important of liberties – the right to think for oneself and shares one’s views with others – is denied. The full exercise of the right to express one’s own ideas and opinions, to share information that is available and to deliberate openly and without restrictions regarding the issues that concern us all is an indispensable condition for the consolidation, functioning and preservation of democratic regimes.

“This chapter describes some of the most important aspects of freedom of expression in the hemisphere during 2010... As in previous annual reports, this chapter exposes the aspects of the right to freedom of expression that merit greater attention and that have been reported to the Office of the Special Rapporteur during the year...The cases selected in each topic seek to serve as paradigmatic examples that reflect the situation in each country in relation to the respect and exercise of freedom of expression.

The mention of the FBI raids occurs in a section of the report in which the IACHR notes “several judicial decisions with important implications for freedom of expression handed down by United States federal courts in 2010,” including the Supreme Court's June 2010 Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project decision. Following a discussion of these judicial decisions, the IACHR report notes:

On September 24, 2010 the FBI conducted searches at eight addresses in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Chicago, Illinois linked to individuals and organizations critical of United States policy in the Middle East and Colombia. According to the information received, the persons affected by the raids, some of whom were reportedly subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, include: Meredith Aby, Mick Kelly, Sarah Martin, Tracy Molm, Anh Pham and Jess Sundin in Minneapolis, as well as Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner in Chicago. These persons are reportedly linked to organizations such as Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Minnesota Anti-War Committee. According to the public statements of FBI officials and the warrant to search the residence of Mr. Kelly in Minneapolis, the searches were conducted in relation to an investigation into possible violations of the prohibition on ‘providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations’ established in 18 U.S.C.§2339B. As mentioned previously, this criminal provision was challenged by civil society organizations on First Amendment grounds and upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2010 in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

In a statement on the issue, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression stated that they “[welcome] the fact that the government repression against anti-war and solidarity activists within the United States is gaining the attention of international observers concerned about human rights,” and that they “[urge] other international human rights observers to assist with the defense of the activists being unjustly targeted by the FBI for their freedom of expression.”

The FBI and government repression against activists has escalated in recent weeks with the freezing of subpoenaed activist Hatem Abudayyeh's bank accounts, and more recently, with the pre-dawn SWAT team raid last week on the Los Angeles home of long-time Chicano liberation and immigrants rights leader, Carlos Montes. Since the Sept. 24, 2010 FBI raids, thousands of activists across the United States have pledged to resist FBI and grand jury repression visited on anti-war and solidarity activists and hundreds of organizations have expressed their support for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

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