Chinese Still Executing Prisoners for Their Organs, Human Rights Lawyers Say

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China has been harvesting organs from prisoners, including prisoners of conscience (those jailed for nothing more than practicing a religion that is not state-sponsored), for years, and despite saying they have reformed the practice in 2015, China is still doing it, according to human rights workers David Matas and Ethan Gutmann.

According to the lawyer and investigator, China “obviously has got a lot of people sitting around waiting to be killed for a transplant, and they’re just picking the right person to be killed depending on who the patient is.”

Chinese businesses profit from transplant tourism — people coming from other countries to get quick organ transplants — as well as meeting local needs. There aren’t enough organs volunteered to meet demand, so China takes them from prisoners. Prison officials coordinate with doctors in China to make this happen.

According to authorities around the world who keep track of people going to China for transplants, the numbers have markedly reduced, indicating that China has made serious efforts, but it has not stopped.

China executes thousands of people per year — around 3 times the amount of the rest of the world combined, although stats are hard to get because China blocks publication of them (it’s currently a state crime), even though Amnesty International and other groups keep track of all executions in all countries.

Many of those executed come from populations China doesn’t like very much, like religious and ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Assange’s Sex Charges Dropped

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Julian Assange has been holed up in a room in London for years after being given refuge by Equador in their London embassy building. In 2010, he was charged with sex crimes in Sweden — a couple of women he was involved with at the time made complaints not long after Wikileaks published video and other documents of American military activities in the Middle East — and Assange fled to England. British courts in 2012 ruled Assange should be given up to Sweden, and Assange violated his bail to flee to the embassy.

He has lived indoors since then, only making public appearances from a balcony or via the internet.

The case has been repeatedly reviewed by Swedish courts, and now they have found that in the interests of proportionality it is not worth continuing. Essentially, authorities made the decision because all legal options had been exhausted and because the prosecutor wasn’t working harder to pursue the matter.

The Swedish public prosecutor wrote in a statement, “In view of this, and that to continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s personal appearance in court, there is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation.”

The validity of the charges have always been questioned. There have been claims the charges were politically motivated because the U.S. government was very upset with the recent leaks.

The women in question are ones who each met Assange at conferences he was a speaker at and had consensual sex. Later on, the two women discussed Assange, and afterwards laid charges for forms of non-consensual sex (alleged to have happened in addition to the consensual sex). One of the charges was molestation, one was for unlawful coercion, and one was rape, according to Swedish law (the alleged acts had to do with not wearing condoms although the woman said he must and sex while the partner was sleeping). Originally, Swedish prosecutors didn’t think there was evidence of rape and that the molestation charge would still go forward but it wasn’t serious enough for a warrant. The lawyer for the 2 women made an appeal to a special department and after police interviewed Assange, the director of prosecution reopened the case for rape.

Over time, the molestation and unlawful coersion charge was dropped because Swedish authorities ran out of time to question Assange, and the UN found Assange was being arbitrarily detained and should be compensated for “deprivation of liberty.” The rape charge was the only one remaining until now, although Assange may still be found in contempt of court for violating his bail and fleeing.

British authorities have said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy. The expectation is that he would then be extradited to the U.S.

Tough Legal Question: The President’s Statements VS Acts

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A debate is taking place in legal circles, matching the contentious findings of the various judges that have been dealing with figuring out how Trump’s executive orders are related to his earlier statements.

During the campaign trail, Trump said he would institute a Muslim ban. Most legal experts would consider such a ban to be a violation of the Constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion. Now that Trump is trying to enact a travel ban from several countries where Muslims are the majority, the claim that travel from the countries poses a risk to the U.S. is not enough.

His first attempt at the travel ban was struck down in court because of his earlier statements. Those arguing against the ban said that because Trump had earlier said he wanted a Muslim ban, no matter what he says now about a travel ban, the ban is actually a ban against Muslims, even if it has no language in it mentioning religious affiliation. Trump’s second attempt at travel restrictions is facing similar challenges.

Another aspect of the debate is the question of what would be enough to satisfy those arguing against Trump that he no longer wanted a Muslim ban, and just wanted to increase security. In the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals this week, Judge Robert King asked, “What if the President repudiated his statements in the campaign and post-election about the Muslim ban? What if he repudiated them all?”

The lawyer for the International Refugee Assistance Project, Omar Jadwat, responded that it would be “a significant fact” but that it “would not change the result.”

Judge Dennis Shedd then followed up, “What if he says he’s sorry every day for a year? Would that do it for you?”

Jadwat responded, “… Here’s the issue, your honor. What the establishment clause prohibits is targeting and denigrating religion. At a minimum, that’s what it prohibits. And the question is, would reasonable people see what he was doing in total as achieving that effect?”

“You say reasonable people would say he doesn’t really mean it when he says he’s sorry?”

“Your honor, I think it’s possible that saying sorry is not enough.”

Other hypotheticals were posed by the court, such as whether another candidate had won the election and they tried to instute the travel ban, or if Trump had said he hated Muslims earlier in life (in college), or if there was a clear threat from a religious group. The questions circle the main issue: Are executive orders to be judged based just on national security, or does the religious liberty clause jurisprudence come into play as well?

Leaked Doc Reveals UK Plans for Wider Internet Surveillance

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No more end-to-end encryption is one of the consequences of a new law proposed in a draft in the UK.

The authors of the draft want to force internet providers to monitor all communications in near realtime, as well as install backdoor equipment to break encryption, so providers can be required to turn over communications to authorities “in an intelligible form” (non-encrypted) within one working day.

In the UK, law already requires internet providers to store all browsing data for 1 year.

It isn’t yet known how the requirement for a backdoor will work, since many messaging and other apps use end-to-end encryption for security, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Wire, and iMessage, and these apps are based outside of the UK.

Guatemalan Indigenous Land Rights Activist Wins the Goldman Environmental Prize

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For standing up to the government and nickel miners expanding into the land of his 270-member farming and fishing village, Rodrigo Tot, 60, won the largest award going for grassroots environmental activists.

“An indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community,” summarized Goldman Prize.

2017 winners: mark! Lopez (sic) of the U.S.; Uroš Macerl, Slovenia; Prafulla Samantara, India; Wendy Bowman, Australia; Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Tot.

Lawyer Found Guilty of Contempt for Livestreaming Trial on Facebook

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Attorney Nicholas Somberg was found guilty of contempt of court by Roseville District Judge Marco Santia for livestreaming a trial in which a Michagan man tried to fight a fine received for warming his car up in his driveway one cold morning.

In the trial over the ticket, the city’s attorney argued that the law was put in place due to a public safety issue. Two cars similarly left open and running in driveways were stolen and one led to high speed chase. The other had 2 kids in it when it was stolen.

During that trial, two TV news cameras were livestreaming.

Somberg acknowkedged that his associate sitting behind him was livestreaming, but had only done so after asking the local media if it was permissible.

The judge said Somberg did not fill out a permission slip for the filming.

Arkansas Executions

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For 12 years, the death chamber has been empty in the state, but this week a single execution and then a double execution were held there.

Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, both on death row for over 20 years for murder and rape, were killed most recently.

There is a rush in Arkansas because one of their injection drugs, Midazolam, passes its expiry in May, and the drug makers are trying to block the state from getting more due to concerns about how the drugs are obtained and used.