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Consistent Approach to Rights Needed in UK Foreign Policy

This week’s launch of the United Kingdom’s human rights sanctions regime offers victims a chance to see a measure of justice for the harms they suffered. Yet to be effective, it’s vital they are used fairly and consistently.

Ivan Safronov Accused of Treason

Today, news broke that the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested veteran journalist Ivan Safronov on treason charges.

In June 2020, the Turkish government proposed a new draft law amending Turkey’s Law on Lawyers. The draft greatly reduces the representation of lawyers from Turkey’s main cities at the national Union of Turkish Bar Associations and proposes that in provinces with over 5000 lawyers, any group of at least 2000 lawyers can set up their own bar association. The government argues that the creation of more bar associations would mean a “more democratic and pluralistic” system, but the majority of bar associations, many lawyers and activists argue that the real intent and impact will be to disempower existing bar associations in larger cities which have criticized the government for breaches of human rights and the rule of law.

The new government can break with the past and immediately and publicly order Imbonerakure members to stop illegally detaining, ill-treating, and killing.

Report Exposes Impact of Privatizing US Criminal System

By Komala Ramachandra

new report by the American Bar Association (ABA) shows how growing privatization in the US criminal legal system and the financial burden created by “user fees” is effectively criminalizing poverty.

The report, “Privatization of Services in the Criminal Justice System,” finds that private companies are now involved in almost every stage of the criminal process. These companies provide pretrial services, like bail, supervision, electronic monitoring, and alcohol and drug testing. Courts may also offer private diversion programs that allow people to avoid a criminal record upon successful completion. After a person is convicted or accepts a plea deal, they can be assigned to private community supervision or probation.

Almost all of these services entail “user fees” often set by and paid directly to the private provider, with little government oversight. Even collection of these charges may carry additional fees or commissions for the collection agencies, again paid by the individual. Human Rights Watch has documented the pernicious impact of cash bail and private probation, particularly on those living in poverty.

People can also rack up charges while incarcerated, including charges for health care, basic supplies in the commissary, telephones or electronic communication, and financial services like money transfers. 

The system can be expensive for anyone but is particularly harmful for low-income people. When an individual is unable to pay, they may face a range of consequences, including extended supervision terms, arrest warrants, additional court hearings, and even jail or prison time. That can mean even more fines and fees because it takes longer to pay them off. This effectively creates a two-tiered justice system that privileges those who can afford to pay fines and fees quickly, and traps those who cannot. It also means low-income people may pay more for the same offense.

This report follows on the ABA’s “Ten Guidelines on Court Fines and Fees,” which provided recommendations to court officials to prevent fines and fees being used to penalize people who are unable to pay their court debt.

The ABA’s recommendations include increasing transparency, regulation, and supervision of private companies, and significantly reducing the use of fines and user fees. Crucially, judges should always assess an individual’s ability to pay and waive costs when they cannot afford them.

Government Should Support Independent Media Ahead of Electoral Process

On July 7, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye, the chief editor and deputy director of the independent Goobjoog Media Group, is expected to appear in court in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. But his case should have never gone this far.

American Bar Association Highlights Rise in ‘User Fees’ on People Living in Poverty

A new report by the American Bar Association (ABA) shows how growing privatization in the US criminal legal system and the financial burden created by “user fees” is effectively criminalizing poverty.

Latest CDC Data Reveals More About Covid-19’s Racial Disparities

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that new federal data that the newspaper obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit reveals alarming details about the widespread nature of the pandemic’s racial disparities:

“Early numbers had shown that Black and Latino people were being harmed by the virus at higher rates. But the new federal data — made available after The New York Times sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — reveals a clearer and more complete picture: Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups.

. . . . 

“The disparities persist across state lines and regions. They exist in rural towns on the Great Plains, in suburban counties, like Fairfax County, Va., and in many of the country’s biggest cities.”

The New York Times story also reports that the CDC data it obtained was incomplete, and that data related to race and ethnicity “was missing for hundreds of thousands of cases.”

"Even with the missing information, agency scientists said, they can still find important patterns in the data, especially when combining the records about individual cases with aggregated data from local agencies.

"Still, some say the initial lack of transparency and the gaps in information highlight a key weakness in the U.S. disease surveillance system.

"'You need all this information so that public health officials can make adequate decisions,' said Andre M. Perry, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution. 'If they’re not getting this information, then municipalities and neighborhoods and families are essentially operating in the dark.'”

Read the full story > > >