Category Archives: News

Policeman Shot at Car? No, People!

After a great deal of coverage from most of the mainstream media comes news that a WA police officer has been charged in relation to a “Shooting”.

Sen-Const Niko Westergerling, 39, was charged on Wednesday with two counts of discharging a firearm in a manner likely to endanger life over the November 14 shooting. AAP

From news reports and statements given to a WA court it can be generally agreed that the officer pulled over a vehicle when he observed one of the occupants not wearing a seat belt. The car occupants were 3 adult women (including a pregnant woman) and 2 children, one of whom was just three years of age. After a brief disagreement over the identity of the driver the car took off.

Channel Seven reported that it was then that Constable Westergerling produced his police-issue Glock pistol and tried to smash a window with it, then fired the weapon twice as the car sped away. SMH

This is clearly not acceptable from any officer of the law and the serious charges laid show just how serious a criminal matter this is. How does a traffic incident so minor escalate into a potentially fatal police shooting. The officer was accompanied by colleagues, he was pulling over a car with women and children and although there was a disagreement surely he could not argue his life was in danger. Police Officers for the large part are just like you and I, they do a bloody tough job for not a great deal of pay. But could there have been any insight into this officer that could predict such an incident might occur?

Earlier this year…. Senior Constable Niko Westergerling, 38, who also worked as a male model, was fined $2000 by a Perth Magistrate after admitting to kicking and punching his wife in their Innaloo home during a heated argument. Constable Westergerling “snapped” and punched his wife, causing her a black eye, and threw her to the ground where he repeatedly kicked her to the body. SMH

Although confined to desk duties during the case he was back on operational duties once the matter had been finalised. How on earth he wasn’t in prison is anyones guess… “I want you to consider yourself lucky to be walking out of here today,” Magistrate Heaney said. Maybe it is hindsight that allows us to make the following observation, but is it any wonder that a man who beats and kicks his own wife would be willing to shoot at a car of women and children.

Now facing criminal charges and an internal investigation it is best if the rest of the particulars not reported widely are left to the courts to be dealt with. But it must be raised that while there has been coverage of the story, virtually all of it has referred to the incident as if  a policeman shot at a car. Would you, if anyone with a gun shot at your car, look at the damage to your car first or be more concerned about your own safety and your occupants. Bullets do not discriminate when fired, they can puncture steal, glass and find their way very easily into flesh. Nobody knows the intention of the officer, one can only hope that will come out in the court hearings, but people, not a car, was shot at!

It is important that we also consider the fact that the occupants of the car were Aboriginal. Would the media coverage have included far more outrage if the victims of the attempted shooting had been white? And can the victims feel they will get the justice they deserve given the colour of their skin?

It is easy to fob these issues off if you have never faced race based discrimination particularly by the police. But the Western Australian police service came into being as a full time operation after the massacre at Pinjarra in which men, women and children were slaughtered by the newly established force. Nearly 200 years later and having suffered other such massacres, brutality, deaths in custody and all round general poor treatment is it any wonder that Indigenous West Australians are concerned they wont see justice in this matter.

And perhaps, in this context, we must consider why many Aboriginal peoples do not feel safe when an “Intervention” sees police on mass roll into their land. Perhaps what they fear is not a new beginning, but an escalation of persecution!

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World Day Against The Death Penalty

Studies have shown over the years that half of the Australian population continue to support the death penalty, but how many have really thought about the consequences. 

Today, 10th October, is the 9th Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty an important day to take stock of the progress that has been made in the quest for abolition and the work still to be done. As an Anti-death penalty coordinator my views against the death penalty would not surprise anyone. But I did not come to this conclusion from nowhere, it is based on a decade of case work that has involved working on the death penalty in countries across the world. Before that I spent 3 years in study both formal and of my own to come to the conclusion that the death penalty is an injustice in all cases.

A day to call for the end of the Death Penalty everywhere

Yet polls in Australia, a country that has abolished the death penalty, show that roughly half the population still support the process of death. So it is important that Australian’s take the time to think about this important domestic and international issue. Most who call for the death penalty tend to do so for cases of mass murder, but around the world these worst of offenders tend never to be executed. Take the United States, the only Western nation that still executes its civilians for non-military crimes. Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer are two of the most well-known and well-studied serial killers of the last 100 years, neither was executed and Manson is eligible to apply for parole in 2 years time. Dahmer was convicted of killing 15 men and boys, raping them both before and after their death and consuming the flesh of others. If anyone was to be sentenced to death one would safely assume Dahmer would be the poster child. He wasn’t.

Instead people like Troy Davis, Tookie Williams, Angel Diaz and Todd Willingham have all been executed in that time. They are just four whose guilt, fairness of trial and legality of arrest are all in serious question. Willingham was almost certainly innocent when he was put to death, while serious doubt remains about that of Davis. Mean while in states like Illinois they have abolished the death penalty after studies found those waiting for execution were not only NOT the worst of the worst, but innocent and must be released. The US imprisons more than 2 million people, the largest number and per capita figure in the world, they have shocking levels of recidivism and a death penalty machine that executes the Black, poor and mentally ill at a rate that outweighs their counterparts in the rest of the community by more than 10 times.

This therefore is not capital punishment that is set out to remove the worst of the worst from society but a system that executes those with poor legal representation, no money, a minority or with a serious mental illness. As the saying goes, don’t have the capital and you get the punishment. This is backed up by every major study conducted into the death penalty system that has shown it does not act as a deterrent. Rather states that impose the death penalty tend to have higher rates of murder and violent crime and as a result larger prison populations. It becomes a vicious cycle that results in more and more innocent victims of crime and loss of life. While studies in a number of states, including the study ordered by then Governor George Ryan in Illinois showed the death penalty system was broken at every turn.

Outside of the US the majority of executions take place in Pakistan, China, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. These are often not against those who have committed violent crimes, but political dissidents, those whom have been convicted of blasphemy, crimes against the king or ruler and adultery/homosexuality. Pakistan and Iran have this year carried out the execution of those whose only crime was to promote their religion other than the state accepted religion of Islam. While Iran and Saudi Arabia have executed women who have been raped, for the crime of adultery. Saudi Arabia still conducts its execution by sword and beheading is a gruesome and rarely swift method for murder by the state of a human being. China’s figures for execution are so large they refuse to publish them, they are often those who dare question the totalitarian regime or who are from ethnic groups in the outer reaches of the nation.

This is NOT justice!

Each year more than 10,000 people are officially executed by nations around the world. Virtually none have been convicted of mass killing or large-scale sexual abuse of children. The death penalty is simply an act of revenge against a small percentage of the criminal population and a larger percentage of women, minority groups and those whose actions would be deemed simply free expression in the majority of the world.

Supporting the death penalty is not the support for being hard on crime, it is the support for an unjust gruesome system of vengeance that rarely gets the right man and promotes a cycle of violent crime, mistrust and fear in the nations that carry it out most often. There are no safe guards, there can be no over turning of the act when an execution has taken place and Australia is better for no longer partaking in the practice. But we also must do our part to end this most barbaric of acts around the world. And if we value our friendship with the United States we must encourage them to catch up with the rest of the world and end this dark ages horror. Only then will the last remaining nations begin to follow and the world can be free of one of the crimes against humanity we can stop forever!

Martin Hodgson

Anti Death Penalty Coordinator – Foreign Prisoner Support Service.

http://www.foreignprisoners.com

Amnesty slams indigenous policy – Action required

AAP

The head of Amnesty International has strongly criticised the federal government’s efforts to improve living standards of Aboriginal Australians, saying it could learn from New Zealand’s dealings with its Maori people.

The human rights agency’s secretary-general, Salil Shetty, said the government’s “top-down externally driven” efforts to close the gap on Aboriginal socio-economic disadvantage were instead having the opposite effect.

Mr Shetty, who is the middle of a tour of Australia after a visit to New Zealand, said Amnesty was appalled that current policies had effectively “forced evictions from their traditional homelands”.

“They’re stripping funds for essentials services from these communities, effectively driving people away,” he told AAP in an interview.

Mr Shetty was to spend Saturday at the homeland communities of Utopia, 260 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, before heading to Canberra next week to meet with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.

Far from what the name suggests, most Utopia communities are more like Third World slums.

An Amnesty report, released in August, profiled Utopia and claimed Aborigines were being driven off their homelands and herded into “hub towns” where the federal and Northern Territory governments were splashing out cash for resources and services.

Mr Shetty said there was strong evidence that indigenous people had “better health and a better state of mind” when they lived on their own lands.

Visit Amnesty online to take action - http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/26569/

The Amnesty chief praised New Zealand for its treatment of Maoris, saying the government there had done a “much better job than Australia”.

“There’s a lot to be learned from them, given the way they have given Maoris a voice in the political process and in decision-making,” he said.

“Aboriginal people need to be empowered to make their own choices.”

Mr Shetty said part of the problem was mainstream Australia’s lack of understanding about the extent of the disadvantage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

“There’s a lack of political will,” he said.

Mr Shetty said Australia was one of the richest countries and should be able to find solutions “unless deep down we’re dealing with a lot of prejudice and discrimination”.

He is also concerned that the benefits of Australia’s mining boom are bypassing struggling indigenous communities.

“Where the benefits and revenue are going to is disproportionately in favour of large corporations, at the cost to Aboriginal communities,” Mr Shetty said.

In Canberra next week, Mr Shetty will urge Ms Macklin to end discrimination of homeland indigenous people and call on the government to ensure money is distributed equitably to include the homelands and address an under-investment in housing.

Amnesty has been a staunch critic of the Howard government’s Northern Territory Intervention plan, which has continued under Labor but is now under review.

Mr Shetty said the government should be looking at the recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred Report and its obligations under the United Nations declaration for indigenous people when planning its next move.

However, he applauded moves to recognise indigenous people in Australia’s constitution.

“There’s nothing wrong with symbolism as long as it doesn’t end there,” he said.

“What we need is accountability and justice, it’s not just a question of words.”

http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/26569/ – Take Action Now!

#OccupyWallSt – Not the first, wont be the last!

As the protests grow larger by the day on Wall Street and news of nearly 1000 arrests in New York City emerges it is important to remember this is not a new movement.

Protests come and go, rent-a-crowd is a tactic that never works and as MPs have pointed out online petitions are often ignored. But Occupy Wall Street is more than any of those things. It goes back to the days of anti war protest, civil rights rallies and brings in people of all political persuasions, colours and creeds. Occupy Wall Street represents the 99% of the population who are victims to the greed of 1% who hold the vast majority of the wealth and seem unwilling to share it.

But the point I want to make is simple, this is not a rent a crowd, this is not a group of people who are there for a day and gone tomorrow. This movement has a history, even in popular culture, that gives it the grounding to survive for the entirety of the fight.

26th January 2000, Wall Street meets Rage Against the Machine.

While for years social commentators and comedians like Dave Chappelle, Michael Moore, Bill Maher, Al Franken and many others have encouraged protest on Wall Street and fostered an idea that this is a long term problem that requires immediate action.

And the Movie you MUST see that explains the way Wall Street works, the global financial collapse and who is responsible.

We don’t know how this movement will end, what we do know is that until the issue of the expanding divide between rich and poor is redressed a movement on Wall Street is inevitable. Where it expands to is up to you!

A Week That Needs Perspective – Eatock v Bolt/HWT

The editorial space is overwhelming, the Twittersphere and Facebook walls have gone feral and talk back switchboards have strained under the pressure as the Eatock Vs Bolt decision came in. But why the fuss…?

There is nothing I can add to the debate that hasn’t already been said on the verdict and the fall out for those involved on both sides and the legal implications. However what has been missing this week is some perspective. Andrew Bolt a man not known for his moderate views wrote two columns that should never have seen the light of day. Not because he doesn’t deserve free speech or he doesn’t have a right to express his opinions. But because the pieces were so full of factual inaccuracies that they do not belong in any major newspaper in this country. If Bolt has an editor and I assume he does, they simply did not do their job. Clearly he is hired to be controversial, a flame thrower and partisan zealot whose success comes from driving people apart and polarising opinions.

In short he is a Bully in the written form and this time he seriously overstepped the mark. He was pulled into the principal’s office, given a dressing down and like every other Bully before him came out of the office the victim, the martyr who just wants everyone to get along. “I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on the differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings,” Bolt said. Until of course he got back to the safety of his computer and once again the keyboard warrior took aim at all and sundry.

So let us step back, have a cuppa tea and gain some perspective on all of this. Bolt is NOT the victim. He named many very high achieving Indigenous Australians and the only way he could sully their names was to make things up. The end! But what has followed shows just how little perspective Bolt and many of his colleagues in the media and politics have. Life in Australia for middle to upper class journalists is not a tough one. They very rarely get sued, they never get thrown in the clink for urging greater democracy in their nation and the vast majority don’t have to leave their desks and head into war zones, refugee camps or famine ridden slums to get a story.

A bombed and burnt child is a front page story, Andrew Bolt is not!

Therefore it comes as no surprise that a decision like this has turned every newspaper and news website in the land into a smorgasbord of opinion, feigned outrage and overnight expert legal opinion on the issues of racial vilification and free speech. All of it wildly missing the mark that Bolt was wrong, his punishment will be extra light with skim milk, the complainants vindicated and the world still just as complex as before the decision. If only these same newspapers dedicated as much editorial space to positive Indigenous stories or the real success of Multiculturalism. If only as many lawyers with a comprehension of migration law had been called upon during the opening days of the “Tampa” crisis, “Children Overboard” and the “Malaysian Solution”.

When are we going to get full-page stories on the disgraceful life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians? Any chance we could have a week of outrage at the fact that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused in this country before they are 18? Or what about the fact we are STILL IN A WAR! Yes media men and women, ladies and gents we are still in a war in Afghanistan, longer than our involvement in Vietnam, WW1 or WW2 and yet it barely rates a mention. Or the fact that a very preventable famine is killing a child every few seconds in the Horn of Africa. Dead………., Dead………., Dead……. and from the media, SILENCE!

The media in Australia have it very easy, Andrew Bolt is not a victim and the complainants in the case should NEVER have been vilified in the way they were. All of them have shown themselves to be brilliant Australian’s dedicated to many of the causes I have mentioned. The issue here is not one of free speech or the tweaking of any law that may impact on that. The real issue is that the Australian media has been asleep at the wheel and on a very simple issue of right and wrong that could have been reported by a nine year old we’ve been forced to endure a Blitzkrieg.

Next time the media wish to roll out the big guns, call in an air strike or a naval blockade I for one hope it is on an issue that really is about uniting and not dividing or an issue like famine, war and child abuse that we simply cannot as a nation afford to ignore. The story this week is that Andrew Bolt is an idiot, but so are we if we allow the issue of a national debate to be him and his ignorance.

Fasting For Troy, in Solidarity – I am Troy Davis

UPDATE @ Bottom re: Fasting.

Despite all the evidence, numerous appeals and support from around the World for his cause it now looks almost certain Troy Davis will be executed for a crime he did not commit.

On Wednesday 21 Sept. 2011 the State of Georgia will summon Troy Davis from his cell, wait till 7pm, forcibly strap him down and inject his body with a lethal cocktail of drugs and wait the unknown time it takes until he is dead. With the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles having yesterday rejected his final appeal all legal avenues for clemency have now been exhausted. It did not sway them that the majority of witnesses have for a variety of reasons pointed out in my previous story changed their minds. It did not sway them that there is no DNA or physical evidence linking Troy to the crime and it did not sway them that the real killer has confessed. The Board stated previously they would only approve the execution if there was “NO DOUBT”. There is considerable doubt, not just in the evidence but in the way previous trials and appeal have been conducted and in the way at no point has a panel of judges been united in their decision.

In solidarity with Troy Davis

So much doubt that former President Jimmy Carter, Members of the European Parliament, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Tutu, Jesse Jackson, Marthin Luther King III and former FBI Director under three Presidents William S. Sessions have all called for clemency for Troy. But nothing, these factors and many many others failed to convince the Board that there was even a microcosm of doubt in the case. We know with the help of DNA evidence that many Americans have been executed when they were in fact innocent and many more spared at the last moment by the work of The Innocence Project and other groups with the same DNA methods. Best selling crime author John Grisham for the first time wrote a nonfiction book based exactly on the tales of men waiting to be murdered by the state for crimes they did not commit. The main focus of the book, The Innocent Man, is Ron Williamson a one time Minor Baseball league star who spent 11 years on Death Row for a crime he did not commit.

But because Troy’s DNA was not even present this scenario is an impossibility and he will be executed based on the word of people who have now changed their story and a system that refuses to mend its own error. This is the fourth time an execution date has been set. At the time of the most recent execution date in 2008 Troy refused to accept his “last meal” from the Warden. He would not accept that as an innocent man it would be the final meal he ate. And while I am now resigned to the fact that Troy Davis will be executed by the State of Georgia in solidarity with his courage and conviction I will not eat for what is likely the final 24 hours of his life.

Solidarity is Universal

I do not do this as a protest but simply as an act of solidarity with a man whose faith in his innocence is unwavering. Having been involved in the anti Death Penalty movement for a decade of my young life I know that at these final hours it is rare that any change is made. I have worked on the cases of men I knew the evidence showed their innocence but who were put to death because the machinery of the justice system could not stop itself from killing. I have been involved in the good side of the issue where innocent men have been spared the fate of death because decent human beings decided to exercise sound judgement and vindication was sweet.

I join the NAACP and supporters of Troy Davis in marking the time of his possible execution as a moment to reflect on Troy, the Death Penalty and what we must do around the World to end this most abhorrent of dark age rituals. If a man who has spent the past 20 years on death row can have such courage and conviction then the least we can do is take the time to acknowledge the greater human rights issue this world still grapples with. As an Australian I am disgusted by the silence of the media in our nation. Reprinting general press releases is not journalism! We share a very close alliance and friendship with the United States, but friends must also point out the errors of each others ways.

As Troy sleeps for the final time in this body, as he faces the Warden and guards and refuses to consume his last meal and as he allows them to take his body, but never his innocence or spirit I ask that you remember his words, commit yourself to the advocacy of ending the death penalty and say in your heart or out loud.

“I AM TROY DAVIS”

“The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.” Troy Davis

UPDATE: I have been flooded with emails of people wishing to join me “Fasting in Solidarity With Troy”

Troy Davis as he has done in the past will refuse to eat his final meal. He does not believe it should be or will be his last, as he has utter faith in his innocence. So we join with Troy fasting in solidarity with him and act as an echo to his courage and conviction. In fasting we say to the world, “I am Troy Davis” and we unite behind a man who in his suffering has united us against injustice.

Most people can safely go without food for 24 hours, but there are a few people who shouldn’t try it — including kids under 12, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, and people with certain medical conditions.

If you have any concerns about fasting, be sure to check with a doctor first.

Troy Davis in his own words.

A day before he is set to die by lethal injection in the state of Georgia, Troy Davis has issued this statement.

“The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.”

Stop the execution of Troy Davis! Gov. Nathan Deal: phone (404) 651-1776, fax (404) 657-7332, email georgia.governor@gov.state.ga.us

I am Troy Davis – Stop the Execution

In 1991 Troy Davis was convicted of murdering a Georgia police officer in a parking lot. Nearly 20 years later, Troy remains shackled on death row — even though the case against him has fallen apart. On Wednesday the State of Georgia will strap him down, inject a lethal cocktail of drugs and after minutes of harrowing pain, he will be dead!       By Martin Hodgson

In 2001 I opened my Hotmail account to find an email from the NAACP, Davis had filed a habeas corpus writ in the United States District Court and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were urging its members to lobby their congressmen to support the case. Being an Australian citizen there wasn’t much I could do, but I’d grown up with a long-standing interest in the death penalty system in the USA. As a teenager in 1995 I’d seen the film “Dead Man Walking” based on the advocacy work of Sister Helen Prejean who supported a prisoner, guilty, who would later be executed. Based on a true story I knew at the time I was never comfortable with execution even of a guilty man, by the time the email arrived in 2001 I had a well-rounded belief to oppose all capital punishment. I’d spend the next decade of my life studying the death penalty, becoming the Anti Death Penalty Coordinator for FPSS and working on many Death Penalty cases. But I am still Troy Davis…

In 1989 a Police Officer, Mark MacPhail, working as a security guard was brutally shot to death when he intervened in an argument in a restaurant parking lot. A man at the scene, Sylvester “Redd” Coles went to the police and gave them a statement to the effect that Troy had been the killer. Davis was arrested a few days later and was put on trial for the murder of MacPhail. The prosecution relied heavily on witness testimony, many claimed they had seen Davis pull the trigger, while others testified Davis had also confessed to the murder. There was no physical evidence or DNA linking Davis to the murder and no weapon ever found. But the evidence of the witnesses was deemed so strong that in 1991 he was found guilty and sentenced to die. During the trial Davis maintain his innocence, something that has not changed for 20 years.

Young and Old, Black and White, We are all Troy Davis

As anyone familiar with the US death penalty system can attest, appeals are many and varied, the process drags on for years and just as with the execution itself the road to the end is long and painful. There has been State appeals and Federal appeals, hearings by the United States Supreme Court and three previous execution dates set. Complex legal battles have been waged and the judges across all the hearings have never been united in their rulings. The system has evolved to mean that no man or woman alone shoulders the responsibility of an execution. Each and every step allows those who would prevent the execution of an innocent man to pass the buck, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. But if so many testified to the guilt of Davis, how do we know he is innocent and what has left courts struggling to agree on his fate?

While legal complexities only allow certain courts to decide certain aspects of the case the facts themselves do not change. The man who reported Davis to the police was the previously mentioned “Redd” Coles. He had been hanging out with Davis in the parking lot and had started the argument that resulted in Officer MacPhail intervening. Redd had demanded Beer from a homeless man in the car park, Larry Young. Young refused Redd and as he walked off was pistol whipped from behind, in responding the Young’s calls for help MacPhail was shot dead. Immediately anyone with an ounce of common sense would point the finger at the man who had argued with and assault Young, Redd Coles. But it was Redd who would beat all to the punch informing the police it was Davis who had in fact murdered the officer. Redd was never treated as a suspect in the case and acted as a witness in the trial against Davis.

Fast Forward to today and since the initial trial every witness apart from two have gone on the record to say that they had either lied under oath, been compelled to give evidence against Davis or actually believed that Coles was the shooter. The only two people to maintain Davis was guilty is a witness who told police at the time of the murder ” I wouldn’t know the shooter again if I saw him” and was only able to identify Davis in court when he was pointed out. The other to maintain their story that it was Davis and not Redd who had killed MacPhail, Redd Coles.

Further compounding the errors jurors in the initial trial of Troy Davis say if they knew the evidence that is now available to all they would have found him not guilty. Over the years many law experts and Internationally known individuals have called for Clemency for Troy. Former President Jimmy Carter, Members of the European Parliament, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Congressmen/Women, Multiple District Attorneys, Martin Luther King III and Former Director of the FBI under three Presidents William S. Sessions. Over the years hundreds of thousands of individuals have petitioned the State of Georgia to grant Davis clemency, with one petition alone having the names of 600,000 individuals. The support for Davis is unprecedented since Capital Punishment was reinstated in the US in 1976 after it had been abandoned for four years from 1972 after significant controversies.

Even from Death Row Troy Davis has been a uniting force

Now the life of Troy Davis rests in the hands of the Board of Pardons and Paroles who set out a standard for clemency: “[The Board] will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.” They will make that decision today and it is hard to see based on the evidence that there is not serious doubt. No murder weapon, no physical or DNA evidence and only the testimony of two people, one the probable killer. But the morality of life and death has been so lost in the complex maze of courts and higher courts, the buck passing from one official to another and the sheer strength of the US Prison Industrial Complex so overpowering that I am not confident of the outcome.

In a decade of studying the death penalty and working on endless cases I have never been so sure that an innocent man could be himself killed for a murder he did not commit. I have seen both innocent and guilty executed not because of the crime they committed but because of the colour of their skin, the failings of their lawyers and the inability of a system to overturn wrong decisions. I have studied the execution reports of Angel Diaz who took an hour to die from lethal injection, a man convicted on the evidence of a jailhouse snitch looking to cut a deal. I have heard Winnie Mandela, Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg appeal for clemency over the highly controversial execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams only to be denied by Governor Schwarzenegger. And I have seen innocent men walk free, one after another, having served 20 or more years on death row only to be saved at the last moment by DNA evidence.

But nothing will be so gut wrenching as to see Troy Davis slowly and painfully executed for a crime the people and the powers know he did not commit. A system so unjust that its rules prevent it from making the wrong decision right and where only those without the capital get the punishment. Not much more can be done, the last papers are being filed and everyone, especially Troy and his family will hold their breath. For a decade I have been Troy Davis, a man, any man in a parking lot. But if they kill him on Wednesday, he, that part of me and of us, is dead! I am Troy Davis!

UPDATE:- Having heard evidence from both sides the Georgia Parole Board has delayed their decision until today (20/09/2011)

If you are in the USA please call the GEORGIA BOARD OF PARDONS & PAROLE

TODAY Between 8:15am – 4:30pm. and DEMAND CLEMENCY FOR TROY DAVIS! (404-656-5651, #0 then #5)

 

 

http://troyanthonydavis.org/

 

http://www.naacp.org/content/main

Advance Australia Fair – It’s all in Verse 2

On Friday night  Australian’s were unwinding from the week that was, settling into the AFL & NRL finals, catching a game from the Rugby World Cup, enjoying a concert, a meal with the family or a night out with friends. Some were still working as the weekend drew near, Hospitals never stop, trains keep on running and night shifts about to start. In Canberra they were working too, the Minister for Immigration and his Department used the night to release their controversial changes to the Migration Act.

Maybe it wasn’t a cynical move, simply an act of a Department and Minister under pressure and burning the mid night oil to have it ready for the weekend press and the monday morning sell. But most, rightly in my view, saw it as a cynical attempt to slip it in under the radar. It’s no secret that the Government, despite being stopped by the High Court, are desperate to restart their “Malaysian Solution”. So while the amendments make no mention of Malaysia, they would allow the Minister to pick and choose the offshore processing destination of his choice. One of the more disturbing aspects of the amendments is that which would allow the Minister alone to choose a country for offshore processing even if that Nation’s domestic and International law protections for Asylum Seekers are zero.

Minister Bowen must be taught the Anthem's 2nd Verse!

So what does all this have to do with our National anthem, Advance Australia Fair? We all grew up singing it at school, we listen to it belted out at sporting events and we expect new citizens to know the words. But most of us have rarely heard the second verse and clearly the current crop of Australian politicians aren’t aware of the lyrics. “Toil” makes a return, while “Girt” doesn’t get another crack but the end of the verse solves once and for all the true National position on Asylum Seekers.

“For those who’ve come across the seas. We’ve boundless plains to share”

That’s right, the Australian national anthem singles out in particular those who come across the sea that we here in Oz have a huge country to share with them. It doesn’t say you have to come by plane (because you don’t) and it makes clear it is us, not Malaysia, Nauru or PNG that will be sharing our land.  And if somehow predicting the current debate the next two lines give us the guidance for this struggle.

“With courage let us all combine. To Advance Australia Fair.”

Yes indeed, with courage let us one and all unite, new Australian’s and old, so that we can share a future that is better than our past, together! Perhaps those of us advocating for onshore processing have been doing it all wrong. First we pointed to Australian law and appealed to the “fair go” attitude. Then we reminded our Government that if they wished to ignore or change our laws there was still International law that they couldn’t circumvent. When that failed a brilliant group of lawyers took the case to the highest court in the land and won! Again it appears even the High Court cannot persuade this Government or those in opposition that offshore processing is wrong.

But the answer was there all along, it was in one of the first things they taught us at school. So important it was deemed that we had to stand in sun, wind, rain and snow to belt it out or fear the wrath of the principal’s scorn. So we must stand tall once more, sing it like we care and make the new Immigration policy, Advance Australia Fair!

ALP MPs must cross the floor on Asylum Seekers!

Walk the Walk if you want to Talk the Talk.

A politician’s job can be a complex thing, who really wants to speak out of both sides of your mouth to keep your job? But what really counts is the way they vote on the Parliament floor.

The Asylum Seeker debate is still going strong in Australia. It is an issue we’ve grappled with as a nation since white man arrived. But it is relatively easy to argue that 200 years on our politician’s are handling the matter more disgracefully than at any other time in our history. At times in the past public opinion was in favour of harsh treatment of those seeking asylum on our shores. Public opinion also once supported the fact that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had WMD’s, something that even Dick Cheney admits was wrong. But for what it’s worth public opinion does support the onshore processing of asylum seekers, 53%. But then you have the other swaying factors to process onshore, legal, economic, humane, health and just the down right decency of doing the right thing.

Crossing the floor means cutting the fence!

For the ALP this is a tricky issue only because they made it that way. Under John Howard the ALP took damage at the polls for supporting onshore processing, the Tampa and children overboard had major impacts on their electoral success or lack thereof. So it seems strange that a party who took a massive hit on an issue would turn around and jump to the other side of the fence to be hit again. Either they believe it will give them electoral success (it wont) or they believe they are doing this in the National interest (it isn’t). On the first issue polls quite clearly show this is a Government in trouble and the “Malaysian Solution” is on the nose. In terms of a National interest how is something that costs more, is illegal under International law and Australian law (hello High Court), costs a fortune and is downright inhumane considered the best thing to do?

It isn’t and they know it, so the Labor left faction has been rolled out to show us the party still has a heart. Doug Cameron has  taken to the airwaves and caucus to appeal for onshore processing, Steve Georganas has hosted Welcome2Australia at Parliament House and others have reminded us that “we have to remember these are human beings”. We have to remember? Us? No,we know perfectly well who they are and we also know why you were elected. Not on a platform of offshore processing and a plan that makes the brutal Pacific Solution and TPV’s look down right pleasant.

Government MPs and Senators don’t get to tell us about humanity, International law and what is in the National interest unless they do the one thing they were sent to Canberra to do. Vote! If they honestly believe in International law, fair and just treatment of Asylum Seekers and actually welcoming people to Australia then they will cross the floor and vote against any and all offshore processing legislation. The very poorly named “Malaysian Solution” is no solution at all. Tony Abbott’s Lib/Nat coalition doesn’t have an acceptable policy either so any gloating on his behalf is for political chest beating only. But the ALP is the Government of the day and the responsibility rests with those ALP members who do believe what the majority of Australian’s believe and voted for them to deliver.

The only thing that counts is their vote on the floor of the parliament. If they want to talk the human rights talk, they have to walk the political walk. And cross the floor!

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