The Biden administration on Feb. 12 launched a review of the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine the facility's fate over the next four years. White House spokespersons told reporters that the administration is considering an executive action to close the prison camp by the end of Biden's term. When asked whether the administration would close the prison within that timeframe, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki replied, "That certainly is our goal and our intention." National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne reaffirmed this goal, saying, "We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantánamo."
In Episode 62 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg grimly notes that, even with 400,000 Americans dead to COVID-19, the worst potentialities of the Trump presidency were not realized. Trump never (quite) established a dictatorship, and we didn't (quite) go over the edge into civil war. The critical task now for the country's progressive forces is to push for a maximal and thoroughgoing detrumpification—akin to the denazification of Germany after World War II. We may truly hope that the Capitol insurrection will prove to have been the last gasp of Trumpism. However, it may have been his Beerhall Putsch—and, as last time, there could be a second act. The more thoroughly Trumpism is reversed, the more likely it will be defeated and broken politically—especially given its glorification of "winning" and denigration of "weakness." The risk of sparking a backlash is not to be dismissed, but the greater risk is that of appeasement. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
China announced Dec. 26 the ratification of an extradition treaty with Turkey that it intends to use, inter alia, to accelerate the return of refugees and Uighur Muslims suspected of "terrorism." Since the 1950s, Turkey has welcomed Uighurs fleeing persecution in China. Uighurs and Turks have linguistic, cultural and religious ties. Currently, more than 50,000 Uighurs call Turkey home. While the treaty does provide grounds for refusal of extradition on the basis of Turkish citizenship, it is feared by many Uighurs that Chinese persecution will follow them to Turkey. "This extradition treaty will cause worry among Uighurs who have fled China and do not yet have Turkish citizenship," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, told AFP.
A group of Cameroonian asylum-seekers has alleged that officers from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) tortured them into signing deportation orders. The men say they were choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed into fingerprinting or signing removal papers in a Mississippi detention center. The migrants had refused to sign, fearing death at the hands of Cameroonian government forces, and because they had asylum hearings pending. The 60 asylum-seekers were placed on a deportation flight to Cameroon on Oct. 13.
Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a "prison." Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around parts of the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Myanmar. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. "The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained," the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, warned in December.
Another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit. The UN General Assembly has elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. China was supported by 139 of the 191 nations that voted, and was one of 16 nations that sought the 15 available seats. (The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones.) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with "abhorrent human rights records," stating: "These elections only further validate the US decision to withdraw and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights." The US left the Human Rights Council in June 2018. (Jurist)
A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Jamestown Foundation, a DC-based policy think-tank, has found evidence of a system of forced displacement and labor in Tibet, mirroring that put in place over the past two years in Xiinjiang. The report, entitled "Xinjiang's Militarized Vocational Training System Comes to Tibet," finds that over half a million people received instruction at "military-style" training centers as part of the program in the first seven months of 2020—around 15% of the region's population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred to jobs away from their homes within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low-paid labor, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Those targeted for the program are designated "rural surplus laborers," which according to the report usually refers to traditional pastoralists and nomads.
More than 170 members of the House of Representatives are demanding that the Department of Homeland Security carry out an immediate investigation into claims of "mass hysterectomies" at an Immigration & Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia. The allegations stem from a whistleblower complaint filed by advocacy group Project South on behalf of Dawn Wooten, a nurse who formerly worked full-time at the Irwin County Detention Center. She was demoted in July, she believes, out of retaliation for raising concerns about COVID-19 within the facility. "We are horrified to see reports of mass hysterectomies performed on detained women in the facility, without their full, informed consent and request that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct an immediate investigation," a bloc of Democratic lawmakers wrote in the Sept. 15 letter.