Friday, July 22, 2016

Imad Hamad's column in the Detroit News: Defending the human rights of police officers

Imad Hamad with current and former law enforcement officials

My good friend Imad Hamad, Executive Director of the American Human Rights Council, wrote an excellent column on the American national conversation on policing:

The latest wave of police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota is another painful reminder of a crisis in policing. The police are tasked with protecting the public, but we are now witnessing attacks on the police.
The police find themselves, as one official noted, of having to be friendly and approachable while watching out for their own safety from certain members of the public.
We at the American Human Rights Council (AHRC) have always advocated for effective engagement and partnership between the police and their respective communities. Shooting of police officers — public servants who put their lives on the line to protect all of us — present clear evidence that something is seriously wrong and we need to move without delay to address the crisis.
The conversation about the police and communities has devolved into a conflict-ridden shouting match. What has not been emphasized is that everybody involved is a human being and should not be reduced to a specific role or function. A suspect is a human being and a police officer is also a human being. As human beings, they are entitled to human rights, foremost of which is the right to life. Human lives must be valued, saved, and protected. Demonizing a person or a group and dehumanizing them, wittingly or unwittingly, creates an environment where crimes such as the ones we witnessed in Dallas and Baton Rouge can happen.
We need to abandon the “us vs. them” frame. We all are humans and we are all entitled to human rights regardless of gender, faith, race, color, nationality, profession, and position. The recent alarming trend of targeting and shooting police officers, our brothers and sisters in humanity, is unequivocally condemned. The police force is not our enemy. All lives matter. Police are an integral part of civil society. Officers are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters our fellow citizens and most importantly, our brothers and sisters in humanity.
Imad Hamad, executive director
American Human Rights Council

Sunday, May 15, 2016

AHRC Mourns the Passing Away of H. E. Dr. Clovis Maksoud

Dr. Maksoud and AHRC Executive Director Imad Hamad

A great Arab American passed away today. Dr. Clovis Maksoud leaves a great legacy. Below is the press release issued by AHRC, a human rights organization of whcih he was the honorary chair:
The American Human Rights Council (AHRC-USA) expresses its profound grief for the passing away of H.E. Ambassador, Dr. Clovis Maksoud. Dr. Maksoud died earlier this morning. The death of Dr. Maksoud  is a great loss to the Arab American community, the Arab World and, indeed, the whole world. Dr. Maksoud’s legacy and contributions to humanity will live on and continue to inspire us for years to come.
 The death of Dr. Maksoud brings back the painful memory of the passing away of his wife, Dr. Hala Salam-Maksoud, a great activist and a wonderful human being. The “Maksouds’ era” was one of the greatest and most consequential eras in the history of the Arab- American community. The Maksouds were brilliant organizers, thinkers, scholars, loyal friends, and genuine fighters on behalf of social justice, equality and the advancement of human dignity and human rights. Dr. Clovis Maksoud was a giant in his scholarship and his courage. He spoke truth to power and dared to speak up and refused to compromise his principles for any form of expediency.
 Dr. Maksoud’s death coincided today with May 15, the day of commemoration of the Palestinian catastrophe or “Al Nakba”.  Dr. Maksoud cared greatly about Palestine and saw it as the core issue for the Arab nation. He had deep love, commitment and dedication to Palestine and its people. He spent a lifetime defending Palestine and Palestinian rights at different forums and in different capacities. Dr. Maksoud died a sad man due to the ongoing tragedy of Palestine and the bloodshed and chaos in the Arab world. He worked tirelessly for decades to make the Arab world a better place for the Arab people of all backgrounds.
  AHRC joins the Arab American community, the human rights community,  Lebanon, the whole Arab World and the international community in mourning the death of Dr. Maksoud. No words can express our profound sadness today. AHRC-USA pays its farewell to its National Honorary Chairman who was a true inspiration to AHRC and its team to move forward and to live up to the challenges facing our common humanity. On behalf of the entire AHRC –USA team, we express our sincere condolences to the Maksoud family and to his friends and admires all over the world.
  “This is a personal loss for me and a true sad day for AHRC and all of us who have known and worked with Dr. Maksoud” said Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive Director. “No words can express our sadness. Dr. Clovis was a personal friend and my mentor. No words can express my grief for the loss of such a great true leader and a wonderful mentor.” “The Maksouds, Clovis and Hala, were my friends and mentors who introduced me to the world of activism and social change and inspired me to serve our common humanity,” continued Hamad. “The Maksouds are irreplaceable and they will be sorely missed,” said Hamad.
 “Indeed, today is a very sad day for us. We lost an eminent scholar and a true fighter for justice,” said Dr. Opada Alzohaili, AHRC President. “We honor Dr. Maksoud’s legacy by continuing to do the work he did- advancing a culture of respect of the human rights of everyone,” continued Dr. Alzohaili.
 CLOVIS MAKSOUD- 1926 – 2016
             Dr. Clovis Maksoud, former diplomat, professor, editor, writer, and humanistic thinker, died May 15, 2016, at Washington Hospital Center, in Washington DC, as a result of severe cerebral hemorrhage. His life journey took him from the U.S., to the Middle-East, Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
In 1918, at the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Levant fell under French and British mandates. Throughout the Arab World resistance to the foreign occupation stimulated the birth of new national movements. A wave of fresh Arab ideals rushed through the schools, colleges and universities of Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, and Jerusalem. It is during this unprecedented surge in democratic and social aspirations that Clovis Maksoud was born in 1926, in Oklahoma, to American Lebanese parents.

At the start of World War II in 1939, he was a student at Beirut’s renowned Chouwaifat high school where a group of passionate teachers nurtured his nascent ideals. When Clovis Maksoud enrolled in 1944 at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon was on its way to gain its independence from France. AUB was at the time widely viewed as the cauldron of liberal Arab ideas. During his years at AUB he was greatly influenced by the forward-thinking intellect and pan-Arab ideals of Professor Constantine Zuraik. During that time World War II’s ripples shook the Middle East, tore up Palestine, and destroyed the area’s intertwined political and historical fabric.
After graduating from AUB in 1948, he traveled to study law in the United States where he received his J.D. from George Washington University. In 1951, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas introduced him to Rosemary Curry. They were married in 1951 and had one child, Elizabeth.
Upon Clovis Maksoud’s return to Lebanon in the mid-1950s he became actively involved in democratic and social reforms. The aftermath of 1956 Suez War greatly marked him. It anchored his political commitment and made him an enthusiastic advocate of Arab unity and a vigorous defender of Palestinian rights.
His writings and pan-Arab ideals led to his nomination in 1961 as Ambassador of the Arab League to India and South East Asia. For the duration of his term, Clovis Maksoud played a pivotal role in establishing closer relations between India and the Arab World. In response to the growing tensions of the Cold War, India stood as an outspoken advocate of the interests of the non-aligned countries and showed its unequivocal support of Arab causes and Palestinian rights.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

On Arafat- Elias Choufani, his daughter and her poetic license

Arafat addresses the UN General Assembly, Geneva 1988

Arafat with his men in 1982

Arafat at the UN in  1974

Arafat under siege in his compound in Ramallah

PLO leader Yasser ‪#‎Arafat‬ was a leader of a revolution who received in 1974 a standing ovation at the General Assembly. He led his men, on the ground, in 1982 under extraordinary circumstances with the PLO and allies vastly out-manned and outgunned. In 1988, because the US denied Arafat a visa, the UN General Assembly took the extraordinary measure of moving its meeting from NYC to Geneva so that he could address it.

‪#‎EliasChoufani‬, whose daughter made a "poetic piece" where he attacks Arafat, is a mere paper pusher- with strong 'tude. A chickenhawk who never saw any military action.
Of course the enemies of the Palestinian people will focus on the paper pusher, his daughter and her poetic work- and will use his "poetic words" to attack Arafat's legacy.
Choufani's poetic license deserves a less than poetic response.

AHRC Annual Banquet "Spirits of Humanity Gala" to be held on May 12, 2016 at Greenfield Manor in Dearborn

Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive Director

Dr. Rima Khalaf, Under-Secretary and Executive of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), in Beirut, Lebanon

The Michigan- based American Human Rights Council (AHRC) is holding its annual gala on May 12, 2016 at Greenfield Manor in Dearborn, MI. This year's gala has an impressive keynote speaker and honorees. Below is the information on the gala provided by the AHRC:

AHRC is pleased to host High Official of the United Nations for its 2016 "Spirit of Humanity" Gala.

The American Human Rights Council (AHRC-USA) is pleased to host at this year's annual gala
Dr. Rima Khalaf, Under-Secretary and Executive of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), in Beirut, Lebanon. Dr. Khalaf previously served as the Regional Bureau for Arab States with the United Nations Development Program where she initiated projects to promote good governance, human rights, and human development in Arab countries. In addition, Dr. Khalaf was the principal architect behind the pioneering ESCWA Arab Human Development Report "Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative Report."
Dr. Khalaf has served in senior development positions in Jordan, and has participated in various international commissions, including the High Level Commission of the Modernization of the World Bank Group Governance.
Dr. Khalaf is a citizen of Jordan and holds a BA in Economics from the American University of Beirut, a Master's in Economics and a Ph.D in System Science from Portland State University.
"It is great to have Dr. Khalaf as our keynote speaker for our "Spirit of Humanity" Gala this year.  AHRC and the entire metro Detroit community in honored to host her and listen to her insights on advancing and protecting human rights." said Dr. Opada Alzohaili, President of the Board of Directors of AHRC-USA.
"AHRC is very honored to receive and host such an esteemed and highly regarded United Nations official, “said Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive Director."Dr. Khalaf's work promoting and advancing human rights, good governance, economic growth, and social development in Arab countries is tremendous and we are pleased that she will be in Dearborn, Michigan at our "Spirit of Humanity" Gala, joining us in honoring human rights and human dignity worldwide," added Mr. Hamad.

For more information about Dr. Khalaf's work with the United Nations ESCWA, please visit


Saturday, April 9, 2016

AHRC Executive director Imad Hamad: Changing the Culture to Combat Terrorism

The American Human Rights Council Executive Director, Imad Hamad, published an excellent column in the Detroit News on the issue of terrorism and cultural change. It reads:

Terrorism is a global problem. Recently, there have been attacks in Turkey, Iraq, Mali, Belgium and Pakistan. It seems that almost no place on Earth is immune from the threat of terrorism. Granted, terrorism is a complex phenomenon and usually has many causes. Today, the world perceives terrorism committed by those of Arab nationality and/or those of Muslim faith as one of the most pressing threats to global security.
In countering terrorism, all decent, peace-loving people are in the same camp and are all required to be part of the solution instead of being spectators to unfolding tragedies.
Our duty and responsibility as peace-loving people is to help create a culture that values human rights of all people, and therefore helps immunize our youths against the virus of hate that focuses on the demographic background of the target and on political objectives rather than on people’s basic humanity.
In addition to laudable law enforcement efforts to disrupt and prevent terror, there are other efforts that can help counter terrorism. Many people wonder after every terror attack, why would anyone attack human beings indiscriminately, people whom the perpetrators do not know? One of the key factors that lead to these indiscriminate attacks is the world outlook of the attackers. The work for us in the human rights community is to change that.
As to the Muslim and Arab worlds, historically there were two major ideological projects — pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism. Both outlooks divided the world into us and them. Pan- Islamism called for the brotherhood and unity of all Muslims regardless of their national or ethnic background. Pan-Arabism called for the unity of the Arabs. Pan Arabism won the war of ideas until 1967.
However, the defeat of Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser was deemed a defeat of Arab nationalism as a viable ideology and pan-Islamism presented itself as the savior ideology.
We in the human rights community take no issue with political ideology. It is a freedom of expression issue. However, when a society in this day and age defines itself along the lines of Muslim or non-Muslim, without being enmeshed in a larger milieu of an emphasis on human rights and human brotherhood, this creates a fertile ground where misguided youths or youths with criminal backgrounds would not hesitate to attack the other.
In creating a cultural emphasis of respect for the human rights of all, and in the belief in the brotherhood of all humanity, we help prepare a society that has belief in human rights and humanity in its DNA.
Imad Hamad is executive director of the American Human Rights Council in Dearborn.

Source: the Detroit News, 4/8/2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Federal Southern District Court of New York: Iran shares responsibility for the 9/11 attacks

Southern District Court of New York

The Federal Southern District Court of New York: Iran shares responsibility for the 9/11 attacks
Court holds Iran and Hizbullah provided material support to al Qaeda
Case based on expert testimony, Iran does not participate*

The Arab media reported that an American court held Iran responsible, along with al Qaeda, for the 9/11 attacks.  There is a large number of civil cases filed by American citizens against Iran seeking damages for acts of terrorism around the world. Iran, for example, was held liable for the kidnapping and killing of American citizens in Beirut in the 1980s and ordered it to pay millions of dollars to the families of the victims and to the former prisoners. One of these victims is the former AP reporter Terry Anderson who, according to the Court, was held by a Hizbullah front group, Islamic Jihad, for 7 years in the 1980s. Anderson was paid about 6 million dollars from Iranian assets as compensation for this imprisonment. He wrote a book, Den of Lions: A Startling Memoir of Survival and Triumph about his experience. Another of the hostages, Reverend Terry Waite also wrote a memoir, Taken on Trust, about his years of captivity and also accused Hizbullah, Iran and the late Hizbullah top operational man, Imad Moghnieh, of being behind his ordeal.

Countries or states as they are referred to in international law, have sovereign immunity.  How is anyone able to sue a sovereign country? What did the Court find Iran liable for? What is the evidence? A case from the Southern District of New York, Havlish v. Bin Laden, et al. answered these questions.  Iran did not participate in the proceedings.  The judge decided the case mainly on expert testimony.

 Below are excerpts from the case. The questions are mine and the answer is an excerpt from the Court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

*How does an American court have jurisdiction over Iran, a sovereign country?
Pg. 3, #1: The court’s jurisdiction over Iran and the agency instrumentality Defendants is grounded in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. 1602, et seq. Section 1605A of the FSIA also serves as the basis for liability claims asserted by plaintiffs who are United States nationals.

*We see much Sunni-Shiite tensions in the world today.  Why and how did the Court find that Iran was working with Sunni terrorists who are known as anti- Shiite?
Pg. 16, #2: In the early 1990s, casting aside the historic bitterness between the Sunni and Shi’a sects of Islam, Sudanese religious-political leader Hassan al Turabi and Iran’s political leaderships and intelligence connections, beginning a united Sunni-Shiite front against the United States and the West. Ex. 6, Lopwz-Tefft Affid. 132-33; Ex. 2, Timmerman 2nd Affid. 48.

*The controversial Sunni Islamist leader Hassan al Turabi, who passed away recently, was fingered by the Court. What role did he play in bringing Iran and Sunni terrorists together?
Pg. 16, #2: While Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were headquartered in Sudan in the early 1990s, Hassan al Turabi fostered the creation of a foundation and alliance for combined Sunni and Shi’a opposition to the United States and the West, an effort that was agreed to and joined by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, leaders of al Qaeda , and by the leadership of Iran.  9/11 REPORT, pp. 60-61; Ex. 6, Lopez-Tefft Affid. 132; Ex. 3, Byman Affid. 23; see also 18-22, 24-28.

*The Court claimed that Iran provided much material support for al Qaeda, support without which the Court held it would have been harder for al Qaeda to attack the US on 9/11 and kill three thousand Americans. What is an example of that material support?
Pg. 20, #3: U.S., Saudi, and Egyptian political pressure on the Sudanese eventually forced them to expel Osama bin Laden in May 1996. Radical Afghan Sunni warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a strong Iranian ally, invited bin Laden to join him in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar and bin Laden had known each other during the 1980’s Afghan mujaheddin-Soviet war. Osama bin Laden then relocated to Afghanistan with the assistance of the Iranian intelligence services. Ex. 15, U.S. embassy (Islamabad) Cable, November 12, 1996; Ex. 7, Bergman Affid. 64; Ex. 2, Timmerman 2nd Affid. 99; see also 9/11 REPORT at pg. 65.

*The Saudis blame al Qaeda for the Khobar Tower attack that killed Americans. How was Iran involved in that attack?
Pg. 20, #4: The 9/11 Commission examined classified CIA documents establishing that IRGC-Qods Force commander Ahmad Vahidi planned the Khobar Towers attack with Ahmad al Mugassil, a Saudi-born al Qaeda operative. 9/11 REPORT, p. 60, n. 48. See Ex. 2, Timmerman 2nd Affid. 85-86.
A U.S. district court held that Iran was factually and legally responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing. Heiser v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 466 F. Supp. 2d 229 (D.D.C. 2006).

*Did Iran provide logistical support to al Qaeda, as to travel? Was Hizbullah part of that support? How?
Pg. 24, #5: The second way in which Iran furnished material and direct support for the 9/11 attacks was that a terrorist agent of Iran and Hizballah helped coordinate travel by future Saudi hijackers. As ­­­found by the 9/11 Commission, “[i]n October 2000, a senior operative of Hezbollah visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate activities there. He also planned to assist individuals in Saudi Arabia in traveling to Iran during November. A top Hezbollah commander and Saudi Hezbollah contacts were involved.” 9/11 REPORT at pg. 240.

*The Court connected the Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. What role did Hizbullah play in the al Qaeda 9/11 attacks? What are the connections between the two groups that America calls terrorist organizations?

Pg. 25, #6: The actions of the “senior Hizballah operative,”Imad Mughniyah, and his “associate” and a “top commander” of Hizballah, in escorting 9/11 hijackers on flights to and from Iran, and coordinating passport and visa acquisition activities in Saudi Arabia also constituted direct and material support for the 9/11 conspiracy. 9/11 REPORT, pp. 240-41; Ex. 4, Kephart Affid. passin and specifically 3-5, 66, 70, 78; Ex. 6, Lopez-Tefft Affid. 104-07, 112-20, 264, 277; Ex. 3, Byman Affid. 32; 46-47, 49-50; Ex. 2, Timmerman 2nd Affid. 118-24; Ex. 7, Bergman Affid. 17; Ex. 8, Clawson Affid. 48-49, 59.

* Forum and Link. 4/7/2016.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

United States v. Odeh: The 6th Circuit decision and its implications

Ms Rasmea Odeh is a Palestinian American leader and activist who worked for years helping immigrant women in the Chicago area. She has an excellent reputation as a true activist and a true leader dedicated to helping others. After living a normal and peaceful life in the US, she found herself in a legal nightmare.
          Ms Odeh’s nightmare began when the US department of Justice charged her with illegally obtaining her citizenship. The government charged that Odeh lied about having a criminal record. Many years ago, Israel had charged her and convicted her of terrorism. The jury found her guilty. She lost her citizenship, the judge imposed a prison sentence and ordered her deported after serving time in prison. Her defense team appealed to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati.
          The Odeh case has mobilized a large number of people and organizations from all kinds of backgrounds. Ms Odeh is a well known and respected activist and leader. There was a sense that her case is a political case- that she is being targeted by the government for her activism. Many thought that a woman like Odeh should recognized and honored instead of imprisoned and deported.
          The defense team appealed her case, raising a number of important legal questions. The Circuit court decided on the appeal on February 25, a few days ago. This decision was seen as a partial victory for Ms Odeh. But what did this decision entail?
          There are three opinions in the Court’s decision. One is the opinion signed on by the three judges that heard the case, a separate opinion by Judge Karen Moore and another separate opinion by Judge Batchelder.  The court’s opinion is the opinion as to the appeal but the separate opinions are important and shed light into important aspects of the case. The three- judge panel wrote:
“On appeal, Odeh’s primary argument is that she was denied the right to present a complete defense because the district court precluded her witness, an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from testifying about why Odeh did not know that her statements were false. Odeh maintains that the expert would have testified that Odeh’s alleged torture in an Israeli prison gave her PTSD, which shaped the way that she viewed questions about her criminal history in the naturalization application. Because this type of testimony is not categorically inadmissible to negate a defendant’s knowledge of the falsity of a statement, the district court must consider the admissibility of the testimony.” At a minimum, Odeh will get an evidentiary hearing to determine if the PTSD testimony is to be allowed. The Court did not order that she be given a new trial but if the trial court deems the PTSD testimony admissible then naturally she will get a new trial. This is what they ordered:
“Our reversal is based on the categorical exclusion of PTSD-related evidence because § 1425 (a) was deemed to be a general-intent crime. We do not address other possible bases for excluding the evidence, under evidentiary standard such as those identified by the district court in its order discussion the use of PTSD testimony in federal and state courts. Nor do we prescribe whether a new trial would be required once the evidentiary determination has been made.
The judgment of the district court is vacated, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
          Of the three opinions, the most interesting is judge Batchelder’s. Judge Batchelder has serious concerns with the trial. She does not believe that Odeh had a fair trial and her observations echo the concerns of the friends and supporters of Odeh.  Judge Batchelder notes that, indirectly, Odeh was portrayed as a terrorist, which inflames the jury, but she was not allowed to raise the issue of her torture by the Israelis. Judge Batchelder stated:
‘But if this case is only about lying under oath, then I cannot see how allowing any of the objected-to portions of the Israeli indictment to go before the jury was not an abuse of discretion under Rule 403. As Judge Moore points out, the names of the victims and the prayer have almost no probative value and present a serious danger of unfair prejudice. Likewise, proving that Odeh lied under oath, and even that that lie was “material”, would not require evidence that she was charged with “plac[ing] explosives in the hall of the SuperSol in Jerusalem… with the intention of causing death or injury.” The risk of unfair prejudice from this evidence was enormous, especially since Odeh was not permitted to testify at trial about her claims of torture. The word “terrorist” may never have been uttered before the jury, but it was doubtless in the minds of everyone present.’ Batchelder notes that had the conviction been brought to the attention of immigration, they would have looked into the torture allegation. Judge Batchelder disapproved of the jury being asked to half play the role of the immigration authorities, that is to put themselves in the immigration authorities as to the lie but not as to hearing the explanation. She stated: ‘The Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applies to foreign searches and seizures if the defendant can show that “the conduct of foreign police shocks the judicial conscience.” United States v. Valdivia, 680 F.3d 33, 51 (1st Cir. 2012). And “[it] is well settled that the Bill of Rights limits both the federal government’s treaty-making powers as well as actions taken by federal officials pursuant to the federal government’s treaties.” Sahagian v. United States, 864 F.2d 509, 513 (7th Cir. 1998). The evidentiary concerns may be different in the circumstance, however, because the jury was instructed to step into the shoes of the immigration authorities. If Odeh had told the truth, those officials would doubtless have looked at this evidence. By the same token, however, they would have also considered Odeh’s claims of torture.’
          Judge Batchelder does not believe that Odeh had a fair trial. If it were up to her, she would have ordered a new trial. She stated: ‘Whether a defendant’s naturalization application would have been denied if the immigration authorities had known the truth about her past is not an element of § 1425(a). In light of this, I would have held that the district court abused its discretion in allowing the objected-to portions of the Israeli indictment to go before the jury and that this error was not harmless. This case should be remanded for a new trial. From the majority’s decision to the contrary, I respectfully dissent.’

To help Ms Odeh, one of the things Odeh’s friends and supporters can do is focus on advocating for a new trial. The 6th Circuit court’s decision calls for a new trial in all but name.