activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: amnesty international

protesters arrested in saudi arabia for demanding the release of jailed dissidents

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested early yesterday morning in Saudi Arabia. They had gathered to demand the release of more than 50 women and children detained since Wednesday for participating in a demonstration regarding the incarceration of their relatives. Police arrested 161 men, 15 women, and 6 children yesterday for attending the protest.

Demonstrations and marches are prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Criticism of the government is also disallowed. According to Amnesty International,

Those who do criticize the government are often held incommunicado without charge, sometimes in solitary confinement, and denied access to lawyers or the courts to challenge the legality of their detention. Torture or other ill-treatment is frequently used to extract “confessions” from detainees, to punish them for refusing to “repent” or to force them to make undertakings not to criticize the government. … Defendants are generally denied legal counsel, and in many cases, they and their families are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. Court hearings are often held behind closed doors.

Despite this repression, a rising number of people in Saudi Arabia have been voicing their opposition to the government. Since 2011, protests by relatives of people incarcerated without charge or trial have been increasingly frequent.

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supreme court dismisses lawsuit challenging warrantless eavesdropping law

After the enactment of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, people in the U.S. who communicated with likely targets of U.S. surveillance abroad – for example, activists who opposed governments supported by the U.S. – reasonably believed their communications with such individuals would be monitored. As a result, several people and organizations filed a lawsuit against the FISA law on the day it was enacted. According to Glenn Greenwald,

The plaintiffs in the case are US lawyers, journalists, academic researchers and human rights activists and groups (such as Amnesty) who work on issues of terrorism, foreign policy and human rights. They argued that they have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the eavesdropping law because its very existence impedes their work in numerous ways and makes it highly likely that their communications with their clients and sources will be targeted for interception…

Yesterday, however, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the plaintiffs challenging the FISA law don’t have standing to sue. The Court’s five right-wing justices agreed with the Obama justice department that the plaintiffs were simply guessing that their communications would be monitored, but had no proof. The four less-conservative justices, on the other hand, stated in dissent that government monitoring of the plaintiffs’ communications “is as likely to take place as are most future events that commonsense inference and ordi­nary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen.” As Greenwald explains, the future looks bleak for lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of eavesdropping laws:

With perfect Kafkaesque reasoning, the Obama DOJ says that (1) who we spy on is a total secret, and therefore (2) nobody has the right to obtain a judicial ruling as to whether what we are doing is legal or constitutional.