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Monday, December 10, 2007

Dignity and Justice for All of Us

Today, December 10, is Human Rights Day.

The United Nations has started a year-long commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the theme "Dignity and Justice for All of Us". Seems fitting really, considering everything that has been happening in the world and particularly in the United States... and yes, here in Seattle.

As my more regular readers probably know, I dedicate a great deal of time to the concepts of justice and the permissive attitudes in the US towards the use of cruel and unusual punishment on prisoners and pre-trial detainees which violate Article 5, Article 6, and Article 7 of that declaration of human rights.

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

As you may know, the King County Jail has recently been found to regularly violate the constitutionally protected rights of the detainees entrusted to its care by the Department of Justice. However the local officials in charge of the jail have declared that endangering the lives and permanently harming detainees is not a violation of any rights they might have.

Now, not many people understand the need to consider prisoners as being worthy of equal protections under law and that their human rights should be protected as well. But consider this, hundreds of people who have been convicted of crimes that carry the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences have been exonerated this year alone. To suggest that these innocent people deserved to be tortured or mistreated is to suggest that everyone should be tortured and mistreated because they are the same as you and me... they are innocent law abiding citizens.

Innocent and law abiding citizens have been tortured there. I know that not many people care about that even though I do my best to show that they should. After all, you and I are both innocent law abiding citizens, therefore what happened to them can happen to you.

So, even if you don't care about the rights of prisoners.

Even if you don't care about the torture they went through.

You should care about protecting your own rights.

This is why I urge you to do something to support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today, or at least do something that supports the United States Constitution. Write a letter to your representative telling them why protecting rights for everyone, even prisoners, is important. Write the media, write your friends, write the local officials here who think that torturing US citizens before their day in court is permissible.

Don't do it for me, do it for yourself.


Jack Payne said...

I find your exposure of the Seattle PD to be enlightening, David. I'm going to be in the Seattle area over the Christmas holidays (Vashon Island), and, am sure I'll be thinking even more about it while there.

Packratt said...


Thank you.

I think you'll be ok for your visit, but there are some words of advice I give for any visitors to Seattle.

1. Even small infractions can lead to abuse. The most common problem appears to be improper escalation of force. If you are ticketed for anything, don't argue, do as you are told, and be polite. If the officer who stopped you had a bad day, anything might trigger an attack, even something seemingly innocuous.

2. Don't even try to jaywalk! There have been two confirmed reports this month, with several witnesses, of officers in an unmarked SUV making a game of beating up people for jaywalking, one case resulted in a person getting his head bashed into the pavement 10-20 times, according to multiple witness accounts.

3. If you do witness abuse, don't get involved. It seems harsh to say, but don't speak up, don't intervene, and do not take pictures unless you're sure they won't see you. People have been beaten for simply speaking up or taking pictures of police abuse. The best thing you can do is take note of every detail and report it to the SPD Office of Police Accountability and local media after the event has occurred.

4. Be careful of where you take pictures. Police have been harassing people for taking pictures of places they consider sensitive, even though these places are not marked as such and are on public lands. Also, do not take pictures of the police, they have arrested people for doing that even though it's legal.

5. Try not to worry about it. The odds of you being a victim of police abuse are slim even though there are many cases of abuse reported. So just obey the law and keep my advice in mind and you should be fine.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Seattle, my family does love the city despite what happened to us here.

I wish you the best.

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