Friday, October 24, 2014



This past week marked the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy southwest of Santa Rosa.

Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Andy seven times as he walked along Moorland Avenue with an airsoft BB gun.

Santa Rosa police, who investigated the shooting, said Gelhaus believed the weapon was real and friends of Andy have said an orange tip on the gun indicating it was fake was either taken or broken off.

Deputies shot Andy several ties.  They then told him to move away from the rifle as he lay unresponsive on the ground.  The officers at that point approached him and handcuffed before administering first aid or calling for medical assistance.

In July it was announced that Gehhaus would face no charges and he returned to duty in August.

The Oct. 22, 2013, shooting was a flashpoint that drove people into the streets with repeated cries against discrimination and the heavy hand of police.

The Press Democrat reported earlier this week that residents of the community are still upset.

Angelica Gonzalez, 28, who lives with her family in one of two houses located on the same property, said the shooting has deeply painted her view of law enforcement. Gonzalez said she has a 6-month-old son, and like other mothers she worries about his future in a world where videos and photos of police abuse can be found all over the Internet.

Since the Lopez shooting, she notices more reported instances of police misconduct and unjustified shootings. That awareness has taken its toll, she said.

“We don’t know if we should be scared or simply more careful, and we wonder if they’re really there to protect us,” Gonzalez said, speaking in Spanish.

The county’s lengthy investigation into the shooting left many people in the area disillusioned. “Many people say there is no justice,” she said. “What can one expect if there was no justice?”

The newspaper also reports:

A new law will take effect in 2016 imposing the strictest regulations on BB guns and toy or replica weapons in the country. The law, co-authored by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, says that those types of guns must be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips to make them easy to distinguish from an actual assault rifle.
In Sonoma County, the shooting may have finally paved the way for a civilian review board to look at law enforcement incidents and practices. A panel of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force is preparing a recommendation for the Board of Supervisors next year outlining what form a review board might take.

Community organizers in Santa Rosa hope to turn the vacant lot where the 13-year-old boy was shot and killed into a memorial park. 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has approved the purchase of the lot, worth about $57K. 

The sale must be approved by the State Controller’s Office before plans for a park can progress. 

Andy's mom, Sujey Cruz posted a letter marking the anniversary on facebook.  In the letter she wrote:

The name of this beautiful and talented child was and remains Andy Lopez Cruz! And he is not alone. We will fight to achieve justice for him and for all the other fallen. RIP beloved Andy, you will never be forgotten, you are in our minds and hearts every moment of our lives and we will fight until we get you justice.

For Jails and Police Friday at Scission the following is from Sacramento Prison Support.


Andy Lopez was murdered by a Sonoma County Sheriff in Santa Rosa, California on October 22nd, 2013. He was only 13 years old. Andy’s murder was deeply felt all over the world.  300 miles north of Santa Rosa, Jose Villarreal was moved to write and create art in honor of Andy from his cell in the SHU at CSP – Pelican Bay.
Jose Villarreal is a prolific writer and artist who has spent the last ten years of his life in the SHU at Pelican Bay. He writes frequently for publications such as California Prison Focus and The Rock.   Everything Jose does he does with purpose and commitment – including taking part in the most recent prisoner hunger strikes that occurred at Pelican Bay and elsewhere throughout the California Prison system. Jose has dedicated his life to struggling for Brown youth, Aztlan and oppressed people everywhere.  He could not sit idle after hearing that Andy Lopez had been murdered and quickly created the following portrait and poem for and about him.  He recognized that Andy’s struggle is one that we all share – the fight against repression and for liberation.  When we fight for Andy, we fight for all of us.
“The poem Andy’s Fight I tried to write it in a way that not just captures how his death affected me but to also empower people to see how Andy has mobilized many as well.”
Andy’s Fight
You’re presence lives on in every struggle against brutality,
a precious life not spared the coarse nature of our reality.
A reflection of life under Amerikkka in these streets,
We yearn for the day youth need not worry about them folks wearing
them dam sheets.
You were not allowed to reach your 14th birthday,
This tragedy was felt all the way up in Pelican Bay.
I was in my windowless cell when I got the news,
mijito in our struggle for justice we will not lose!
Today we are born into a repressive state,
Yet the beauty of the people is shown resisting on your birthdate.
You’re precious life meant more than you would probably ever know,
Your small Brown fist has already dealt them a mighty big blow.
Transformation has started due to this pigs actions,
Look at the mobilization of people from so many factions!
Your fight began the day you were born,
Occupation will continue until struggle becomes the norm.
Today we rebuild with liberation in sight,
there is no way in hell we will abandon Andy’s fight!
By Jose Villarreal
Pelican Bay – State Prison
SHU – C11 – 106
PO Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95532

Thursday, October 23, 2014


My blogging these days is limited by the Royal's playoff run and World Series entrance.  With the Series tied one to one and moving back to SF, I decided why not a sports article.  When looking for a quick, yet relevant sports piece the place to go is, of course, Edge of Sports.

The post below analyses the short, strange, career of Michael Sam and the on going idiocy known as the NFL.  One thing the NFL is proving this year is you can't trust anything they do or believe anything they say.  The Michael Sam "case" is one more example of that, and one more reason why watching the NFL has become more and more problematic for me.  

While all of professional sports is a big business, the NFL seems particularly grotesque.  America's favorite sport is nothing but violence, testosterone, and, quite clearly misogyny.   Is it also homophobic?  Well, duh.

I don't have to spend time watching this shit and acting like what is so blatantly going on can simply be ignored.  

Do you?

I am not going to tell you that major league baseball is free of all of this, but I will tell you that I honestly believe it is far less women hating, gay hating, and certainly far less violent then its football counterpart.  I am not going on some rant that no one can sit back with a cold beer and enjoy their favorite sporting event on television, or in the stands and have to feel guilty about it.  However, I am telling you the NFL, well, I find it hard to watch without that feeling of guilt.  Maybe they are just too blatant, I don't know, but seriously folks, like really.  

Remember the movie Roller Ball, the original one...hello, are we there yet.  Are you and I willing to pay money to watch grown men bash each other to a pulp, root for teams which play us for fools with their homophobic gimmicks, cheer for stars who spend their off time beating on women?  

Oh yeah, today I read there is a damn good chance we will be seeing Ray Rice back on the field before you know it.


They Need Him, So Why Was Michael Sam Cut From the Dallas Cowboys?

The set-up seemed preordained, written up by a hacky Hollywood screenwriter. Here are the Dallas Cowboys, the surprise juggernaut of the 2014 NFL season. They have all the Super Bowl ingredients: a fearsome offensive line, a healthy and surprisingly calm Tony Romo at quarterback, and a record-breaking running back in DeMarco Murray. The one thing they’re missing, an essential in today’s pass-happy NFL, is the ability to rush the passer. This is a Cowboys team with only six sacks on the season and not a single player with more than 1.5. There on the practice squad is a son of Texas, Michael Sam, whose chief commodity as a college All-American was his ability to get off the edge and drop the quarterback. The script was written for Sam to be promoted to the roster, and making a needed contribution to a dream season in Big D. Instead, it was announced on Monday evening that Michael Sam was being cut from the organization. The three sacks and eleven tackles in four games Sam garnered in preseason with the St. Louis Rams meant nothing. He was gone.
Oh, by the way, if Sam had been brought up to the main squad, he would have become the first openly gay active player in NFL history.
Did this have anything to do with his release? After all, Sam fulfilled a position of need on a team achingly close, after years of mediocrity, to being on the inside track to the Super Bowl. It is a legitimate question, given the groundbreaking nature of Sam’s efforts and the risk-averse reality of today’s NFL. Even though he, by every account, had been quiet to a fault and just worked hard on the practice squad, the widespread, whispered, off-the-record, belief has been that he would be a “distraction” and was only on the team because of NFL pressure, not to mention team owner Jerry Jones’ inexhaustible desire for publicity.
Throughout the year, when asked about Sam, the Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has been peevish. ESPN Dallas’s Jean-Jacques Taylor recently questioned the head coach about Sam’s progress. Garrett, in Taylor’s words, “did not provide a ringing endorsement.” The head coach then said, “He comes to work every day. He practices hard and he’s one of the 10 practice players we have. He’s working on his skills trying to develop, but also doing a lot of other things. He’s playing offense, playing defense and playing the kicking game. That’s what a lot of those guys do.”
Why would Garrett be so dismissive of Sam? Maybe it has something to do with why Sam was on his practice squad in the first place. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported that after Sam was cut from the Rams and spent almost three days without a spot on an NFL team, “a league official contacted multiple teams asking if they had evaluated Sam as a probable practice squad player. Now Sam and the NFL avoided a nightmare situation when he signed with the practice squad of the Dallas Cowboys.” The league offices have denied this, but we have to remember, as we have all learned this fall, that you know the NFL is lying when their lips are moving.
Jim Buzinski over at Outsports now argues that this will make closeted male athletes throughout the sports world far less likely to be open about their sexuality. “With Sam being cut halfway through the NFL season and without ever stepping on the field during a regular season game, I think it will be a while before we see another player come out publicly. There just isn’t much upside and the perception will linger that by being out, Sam hurt his draft status and chance of landing on a team.”
That perception is hard to shake.
Sam was typically gracious upon hearing about his release. “I want to thank the Jones family and the entire Cowboys organization for this opportunity, as well as my friends, family, teammates and fans for their support,” he said on Twitter. “While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue fight for an opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday.”
One wonders whether Sam will get that opportunity. As of now, it looks like he was caught in a vise between NFL headquarters pushing to get him on the Cowboys practice squad and the lack of desire by any franchise to want to be “the ones” to actually put themselves out there and give him an honest chance. It is ironic that the Dallas Cowboys, a team defined for so many years by “distractions,” starting with their own endlessly embarrassing owner Jerry Jones, are now finally winning and therefore want no part of the non-football-related attention Michael Sam brings. This is still like a Hollywood movie. Only now it reeks of farce.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


if it isn't one thing,
it's something else

I don't know about you, but I have to get myself in shape for the opening night of the World Series.  May I just say a "LET'S GO ROYALS."

Meanwhile, god is casting down the wrath again.  If it isn't one thing it is something else.  You'd think a being who is all knowing, all powerful, omnipotent, and all that would have just cleared all the stuff that gets on his/her/its/ their nerves out of the way a long time ago.

But no....

Bill Berkowitz, who has the misfortune of being a San Francisco Giants fan, is responsible for the following piece from TruthOut.

Ridiculous Pastor John Hagee: Ebola is God’s Judgment on America for Trying to "Divide Jerusalem"

aaaHagee(Photo: Paul Wharton)I know you've been waiting for it. And now you're getting it. One of this country's most influential evangelical Christian pastors is claiming that Ebola is God's judgment on President Obama for attempting to divide Jerusalem. Before you slap your forehead, and scream for mercy, remember that nearly every awful event that has happened over the past umpty-umph years – from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, from tornadoes and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 -- is a result of God's judgment, according to many American Christian leaders.
"I want every American to hear this very clearly," Pastor John Hagee said on a recent broadcast of Hagee Hotline. "The prophet Joel says in the third chapter, 'I God will bring all nations' and hear that phrase—'all nations' includes America, 'into judgment for they have divided up My land, the land of Israel.' God says when any nation divides up the land of Israel, they are subject to judgment, and dividing Jerusalem is dividing the land.
"Our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching, and He will bring America into judgment. There are grounds to say judgment has already begun because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now. We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola.
"We have a crisis in our economy. We are worried on every hand that we are going to be attacked by radical Islam, and there are some very rational voices saying we are their next target. We are a nation that has a crisis of leadership. We are in chaos, in crisis. Anarchy is running our nation in Ferguson, Missouri."
So here we have Hagee, a well-known expert on race relations (not) maintaining that, "Anarchy is running our nation in Ferguson, Missouri." To be honest, I'm not even sure I know what that means other than Hagee attempting to lump apples, and prayer beads together.
("On the same broadcast, host Matthew Hagee cited Matthew 24:7 to claim that the current Ebola crisis is a "pestilence," and thus, a sign of the end of times, and the second-coming of Jesus Christ," the Jerusalem Post reported.)
Pastor John Hagee is no run-of-the-mill evangelical preacher. He is the founder of a multi-million dollar media empire anchored by his San Antonio, Texas-based Cornerstone Church, which boasts perhaps as many as 20,000 active members. He is the founder of the Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which has, according to CUFI leaders, more than one million members.
He is also the man who got in deep trouble during the 2008 presidential campaign, when after Sen. John McCain managed to seek out and get Hagee's endorsement, a video surfaced that showed Hagee claiming that that God had sent Adolph Hitler to hunt the Jews, chase them from Europe, and drive them to Palestine. McCain was forced to disavow Hagee's endorsement.
Hagee's Global Evangelism Television (GETV), was characterized by People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch as "a one-stop destination for all your John Hagee Ministries-related needs. ... featur[ing] live events along with music videos, short messages, looks behind the scenes, and current and archived sermons."
In a video titled The Agenda to Destroy America, Hagee "spent a half-hour talking directly to the camera about how Communists have succeeded in taking over America," Right Wing Watch pointed out.
Hagee was also included on Foreign Policy-compiled list of the 50 Republicans who have the greatest influence on the GOP's foreign policy.
In an early August column, titled, "Is Deadly Ebola Outbreak the First Bowl of 'Revelation' Judgment?" Charisma News' Jennifer LeClaire reported that, "Liberia's church leaders are claiming the deadly outbreak is a plague God has sent to punish the nation for 'immoral acts' such as homosexuality." LeClaire pointed to a report by Liberia's Daily Observer which noted that "more than 100 bishops, pastors, general overseers, prophets, evangelists and other ministers of the gospel who are part of the Liberia Council of Churches have resolved": "God is angry with Liberia, and that Ebola is a plague. Liberians have to pray and seek God's forgiveness over the corruption and immoral acts (such as homosexualism, etc.) that continue to penetrate our society. As Christians, we must repent and seek God's forgiveness."
In a more recent column titled "Is John Hagee Right? Is Ebola God's Judgment for Dividing Jerusalem?" LeClair, news editor for Charisma, revisited the God's judgment claim. "Is Ebola God's judgment on America? I honestly don't know. I do believe God has lifted His hedge of protection, in part, over this nation. Some call that discipline. Some call it judgment. Some don't believe God is involved in it at all. But I am praying about what Hagee said and what could happen next."
The only sure thing that will happen is that when the next tragedy strikes, or when the next natural disaster hits, there will be some evangelical Christian preacher declaring it to be an example of God's judgment.

Monday, October 20, 2014


And what about Haiti?

If the United Nations brings a deadly disease to a country should it be held accountable?  Should someone?

This Thursday a court proceeding will get underway with that question at its heart.  Courts are nice and we hope this one shows some actual justice and dispenses it as well, but...

As Haiti Libre points out:

After the rejection in February 2013 by the United Nations, of a first complaint against the UN in 2011, which accused the peacekeepers of being responsible for the cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010 and demanded compensation for victim the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), on behalf of plaintiffs Haitian and Haitian-American, who contracted cholera, as well as families of deceased, filed Wednesday, October 9, 2013 in federal court in Manhattan a new complaint against the UN in an attempt to lift the diplomatic immunity that the United Nations has since 1946 [under section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and immunities of the United Nations]. This complaint relates directly to the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for careless and dangerous behavior.

That's what they'll be talking about in a New York courtroom later this week. 

Maybe you remember, its only been four years, that while cholera hadn't been heard of in Haiti in 110 years, suddenly in October of 2010, that all changed. Twelve months later, cholera had sickened more than 450,000 Haitians, nearly 5 percent of the population. More than 6,000 were dead.  Today the numbers are higher: more than 8,500 people have died and over 700,000 have been infected.

The pathogen spread into Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The world has failed to tame this epidemic. It continues to plague Haiti to this day, some 300 people are diagnosed with the disease each week, one of which, on average, will die.

Foreign Affairs, yes that Foreign Affairs, admits:

The right to health comes with a cover charge, and much of the world -- especially those in struggling states such as Haiti, Liberia, and Sierra Leone -- can’t pay it. In Haiti, cholera found its ideal host. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti lacks any system of modern water treatment. In the fall of 2010, United Nations peacekeeping troops from Nepal imported cholera to Haiti. They were stationed at a military base in rural Haiti, where their sewage was dumped, untreated, into Haiti’s waterways. As Paul S. Keim, a geneticist who studied the Haitian and Nepalese cholera strains, told The New York Times, in 2012, “It was like throwing a lighted match into a gasoline-filled room.

 Multiple studies, including one from Yale University, affirm that the epidemic spread from peacekeepers in a UN camp about 35 miles from Port-au-Prince. UN officials, however, have refused to accept responsibility.

The UN argues that it has immunity from prosecution in this case. In March this year, the US Justice Department sided with the UN, granting it immunity and recommending that the case be dropped.

One of those facing scrutiny in the coming court case is Edmond Mulet, who led the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) at the time of the outbreak. Mulet has stringently disregarded the claims against him. In an interview with FRANCE 24, he dismissed all evidence incriminating the UN.  He claimed that it has not been proven that the cholera was brought in by Nepalese peacekeepers.  He than asked France 24 not to air the interview.

UN Secretary general, Ban-Ki Moon has  asserted the organization’s immunity – and Haiti’s lack of sovereignty – by coldly asserting that the charges against it were, in legal parlance, “non-receivable” – and hence, inactionable. In essence, the assertion of non-receivable becomes a curt denial of Haitian humanity.  Lately, he simply refuses to comment.

France 24 points out however,

Not everybody at the UN got the silence memo. Gustavo Gallon, a senior human rights expert who was appointed by the UN to report on the situation in Haiti, publicly disagreed with the body over its refusal to address the claims against it. “Silence is the worst of responses to a catastrophe caused by human action,” he said in March.

One of the lawyers representing Haitian victims is Mario Joseph, who is handling some 5,000 cases says the UN has worked overtime to cover its culpability.  He adds, 

The UN, not intentionally but with the greatest level of negligence, gross reckless negligence, inflicted a disease on the people of Haiti when they were already suffering so much.

 Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) , who is also representing cholera victims in their case against the UN  says:

The UN has a binding international law obligation to install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic, as well as compensate those injured.  MINUSTAH (the United Nations force that has militarily occupied the republic since 2004) has spent far more than $2 billion since cholera broke out on other things. It is a question of priorities.

The Canal, a Panamanian Blog, writes that Beatrice Lindstrom, an IJDH staff attorney, says treaties give the United Nations legal immunity when the organization sends peacekeepers. Instead, it is supposed to organize a Standing Claims Commission to determine whether the United Nations can be held liable for damages against a person and, if so, for how much.+

But Lindstrom says that UN officials didn’t organize a Standing Claims Commission in Haiti, nor have they done so in any of the countries in which they’ve launched peacekeeping missions in the past 66 years. In other words, if the United Nations does something wrong in a country where the organization has peacekeepers, there is simply nowhere for victims to turn

Daniele Lantagne, an environmental engineer at Tufts University and one of the UN-appointed researchers who matched the Haitian cholera strain with that of the outbreak in Nepal, is concerned that while the contagion rate has slowed in recent years, the country risks a second round of mass contagion while the international health focus is turned to Ebola.
The current lull in deaths caused by cholera might be explained by partial immunity, which occurs when a disease is rampant, she told FRANCE 24. That period of respite, she said, will last for two to three years. “After that, however,… there could be another surge.”
Something about all this sounds familiar doesn't it?
The following is from  Common Health.
Outbreak On Trial: Who’s To Blame For Bringing Disease Into A Country?
By Richard Knox
If an international agency introduces a devastating disease to a country, should it be held accountable?
That’s the big question at the heart of a court proceeding that gets underway next Thursday. The international agency is the United Nations. The disease is cholera. And the nation is Haiti.
Four years ago this month, thousands of Haitians downstream from a U.N. peacekeeping encampment began falling ill and dying from cholera, a disease not previously seen in Haiti for at least a century.
Since then cholera has sickened one in every 14 Haitians — more than 700,000 people; and over 8,000 have died. That’s nearly twice the official death count from Ebola in West Africa thus far.
A year ago, a Boston-based human rights group sued the U.N. for bringing cholera to Haiti through infected peacekeeping troops from Nepal, where the disease was circulating at the time. The U.N. camp spilled its sewage directly into a tributary of Haiti’s largest river.
There’s little doubt that the U.N. peacekeepers brought the cholera germ to Haiti. Nor is there argument over the poor sanitary conditions at the U.N. camp.
When I visited the scene in 2012, it was plain how untreated sewage from the camp could easily contaminate the Meille River that runs alongside before it spills into the Artibonite — Haiti’s Mississippi — which provides water for drinking, washing and irrigation for a substantial fraction of the country’s population.
The smoking gun, scientifically, is a molecular analysis of the Haitian cholera bug compared to the Nepalese strain from the same time period. It showed the two differ in only one out of 4 million genetic elements.
“That’s considered an exact match, that they’re the same strain of cholera,” Tufts University environmental engineer Daniele Lantagne told me last year.
She’s one of four scientists appointed by the U.N. to investigate how cholera got to Haiti.
But next week’s proceedings, in the U.S. District Court of Judge J. Paul Oetken in New York City, will not deal with those facts, and how they point to the U.N.’s responsibility for bringing cholera to Haiti. The only issue for now is whether the U.N. can be sued — or if it enjoys absolute immunity.
At a time when nations and U.N. agencies are being criticized for not doing enough to quell the burgeoning Ebola epidemic, the cholera suit may have special resonance.
The U.N. is not commenting on the suit. “We don’t make comments on ongoing cases,” says Matthias Gillmann, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Gillmann says the agency hasn’t commented on the matter since it announced last year that claims for compensation filed by Haitian cholera victims “were found not receivable.”
However, the U.N. has been deploying a public relations strategy to defuse Haitians’ anger about cholera. Last July Ban Ki-Moon made what he called a “pilgrimage” to a cholera-stricken family in Haiti and said he was “very much humble and sad to have seen all this tragedy that has been affecting many Haitian people.”
Ban also said the U.N. “has a moral duty to help those people to stem the further spread of cholera,” although the agency has been able to raise only about $26 million out of the $2.2 billion it says will be needed to bring clean water and sanitation to Haiti.
The U.N.’s surrogate in this legal battle is the U.S. government. In a legal brief filed in July, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara argued that the U.N. and its officials are totally immune from lawsuits, no matter what harm may arise from its activities, such as peacekeeping missions.
“The U.N. has repeatedly asserted its immunity,” Bharara wrote Judge Oetken. “Plaintiffs have not presented — and cannot present — any evidence to the contrary.”
Of course, the plaintiffs see it very differently. They’re represented by Dorchester-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and its sister group Bureau des Avocats Internationaux. Their lawsuit demands that the U.N. pay for an adequate water-and-sanitation system for Haiti, the only sure way to end the cholera epidemic, and to compensate cholera victims.
Brian Concannon of the IJDH says the U.N.’s immunity is limited. He says it’s supposed to have a mechanism to compensate those injured by its actions — which might cover such things as sexual assault by peacekeeping troops, or property damage, as well as the introduction of lethal diseases.
That mechanism is called a Standing Claims Commission, which would resolve disputes over damage claims.
“The U.N. has never set up a Standing Claims Commission in 60 years of peacekeeping missions,” Concannon said in an interview.
His group petitioned the U.N. in 2012 to set up such a commission to address cholera claims. But as the secretary-general’s spokesman says, the U.N. found those claims “not receivable,” which provoked the current lawsuit.
Despite the opposition of the U.S. government, Concannon says he’s optimistic. For one thing, Judge Oetken didn’t have to schedule a hearing at all. “The safe route for the judge would be to say, ‘I’m going to defer to the government and dismiss the case,’” Concannon says. “The fact he granted our request for a hearing is a sign the court is taking this seriously.”
In addition, the judge has opened the hearing to outside “friend of the court” parties — groups of international legal experts who support the plaintiffs’ claims. “It’s unusual that the judge made such a broad invitation,” Concannon says. “We think it’s a sign he’s interested in these issues.”
Manfred Nowak, a professor of international law and human rights at Stanford University and a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, signed one of those amicus briefs. “The U.N. needs to understand,” Nowak says, “that immunity cannot mean impunity.”