Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Liberal Groups Planning To Rally On National Mall : As The News Becomes Increasingly Grim.

Liberal Groups Planning To Rally On National Mall : As The News Becomes Increasingly Grim.

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Jennifer Glasse | London28 September 2010

The British government says it plans to introduce legislation to change the process for getting an arrest warrant for suspected war criminals. The change is an attempt to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment last year when an Israeli official abandoned a visit to Britain after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Last December former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni abruptly cancelled a visit to London when she learned she could be arrested for alleged war crimes in Gaza. Then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband  was outraged and promised a change to the law. Now the government here wants the public prosecutor to have veto power over arrest warrants for war crimes and similar offenses.

Human rights campaigners oppose the move.

"There will be a whole additional layer of bureaucracy added to the process and it makes it highly likely that people will escape detection and will escape apprehension," said Eric Metcalfe, director of Human Rights Policy and Justice.

The 1998 arrest here of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, on a Spanish warrant, was the first application of the principle of Universal Jurisdiction - the notion that some crimes are so egregious, that a state is entitled to prosecute no matter where the crime took place. Mr. Pinochet was detained in Britain for 16 months before being released on health grounds.

War crimes expert James Gow says that was a diplomatic embarrassment and the British government is introducing new legislation to prevent it from happening again.

"What they're trying to do is tighten it up. As things stand, anybody can go to any magistrates court. The rules for getting an arrest warrant are quite simple and therefore the authorities have to act on it," he said.

Officials also say changing the law will help prevent politically motivated requests. But opponents say justice is more important than protecting trade or diplomatic relationships.

"The United Kingdom and Israel are both democracies governed by the rule of law and it's in both our countries' interests for the rule of law to be carried out independently of the interests of the government and the executive," said Eric Metcalfe, director of Human Rights Policy and Justice.

This spring, former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic was arrested, when Serbia indicated it would request extradition in connection with alleged war crimes. Under treaty terms, British courts were obliged to proceed with the case.

"We hope that this country will look into how my father was arrested, will look into how this man was held for 10 days in one of your worst prisons," said Emina Ganic, daughter of the former president.

After five months, the judge threw out the case, saying there was no evidence and calling it an abuse of justice.  While Mr. Ganic's release was a victory for his lawyers, many saw it as an indictment of the British justice system.

Government officials refused to comment on the pending legislation except to say any change to the law would take months.

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE : Published: September 26, 2010

Hoping to overshadow last month’s large rally led by Glenn Beck that drew many Tea Party advocates and other conservatives, a coalition of liberal groups plan to descend on Washington on Saturday to make the case that they, and not the ascendant right, speak for America’s embattled middle class.
Predicting a crowd of more than 100,000, some 300 liberal groups — including the N.A.A.C.P., the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the National Council of La Raza and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force — are sponsoring a march on Saturday in the hope of transforming the national conversation so it focuses less on the Tea Party. The groups sponsoring the rally, which is called “One Nation Working Together,” say they hope to supplant what they say is the Tea Party’s divisiveness with a message of unity to promote jobs, justice and education.
“The Tea Party has been getting much more media attention than it deserves, and it’s been saying it represents the voice of middle-class America,” said George Gresham, president of 1199 S.E.I.U., a New York health care union local, who says his union has chartered 500 buses to carry 25,000 union members to the rally. “A lot of us feel we have to get a different voice out there speaking for working people, one respecting the diversity of this country, which the Tea Party does not.”
With so many civil rights, labor, religious, student, gay and peace groups sponsoring the march, organizers acknowledge that it was not easy to forge a common platform and message. And sometimes their message has gotten garbled.
Many sponsors say that the rally is not seeking to back President Obama or the Democrats, but rather to hold all of Washington, Democrats and Republicans, accountable for not doing more to fix the nation’s problems. But some sponsors sound unmistakably partisan as they denounce “obstructionism” in the Senate that has blocked larger job-creation programs and other measures. While these sponsors steer clear of mentioning Republicans, their target seems obvious.
The march’s supporters say that they, and not Mr. Beck, are the true descendants of the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. The Saturday march, like the 1963 march — and the Aug. 28 gathering that Mr. Beck and others organized — will be held on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
“We’ll look like the progeny of that march, with our diversity,” said Benjamin T. Jealous, president of the N.A.A.C.P. “We’re living through a moment of decreasing prosperity and increasing diversity. That’s a formula for a battleground, not common ground. We say, ‘Let’s get the country moving back to common ground.’ ”
Mr. Jealous and Mr. Gresham, the two men who originally proposed the march, say they hope it will be larger than Mr. Beck’s rally. “We believe that our satellite photos will stack up nicely to his satellite photos,” Mr. Jealous said.
Organizers of the rally say their demonstration complements, rather than competes with, the Rally to Restore Sanity that the host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart, has announced for Washington on Oct. 30. Those behind next Saturday’s rally assert that their event shares themes with Mr. Stewart’s in opposing Tea Party negativism and extremism. Saying he was all for restoring sanity, Mr. Gresham said he would be happy to have Mr. Stewart speak at the event this weekend.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “We hope that those who are supporting Stewart will also join us,” adding: “We know what makes the headlines is conflict. We know what we need is to work together to solve problems.”
Mr. Stewart, Mr. Beck and spokesmen for the Tea Party Patriots did not respond to requests for comment.
The rally’s platform looks like a liberal wish list: extend unemployment benefits, raise the minimum wage, end the foreclosure epidemic, enact legislation making it easier to join unions, increase infrastructure spending to create jobs, “fix our broke immigration system” and end immigration round-ups that “encourage racial profiling.” The march’s sponsors hope it will help turn some of these wishes into legislative reality, in part by giving the Democrats some highly visible and clamorous backing to push through stalled legislation.
“Our rally is standing up for the change we voted for two years ago,” Mr. Gresham said.
Janet Murguía, president of National Council of La Raza, said the rally was nonpartisan, although it aims to encourage more people to engage in the electoral process. But Mr. Gresham said he hoped the march would build momentum for candidates who back the demonstrators’ goals, and those generally do not include Republican candidates.
The march has been endorsed by the United Church of Christ, the National Baptist Convention and several Jewish organizations, while the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society has endorsed its principles.
“As people of faith, we deeply care about the issues of justice, education and jobs, and we feel those are issues facing society we have to address,” said the Rev. Amy Stapleton, a Methodist minister. “A march like this is something that hasn’t been accomplished since Dr. King brought people together in 1963 around issues of race, war, class and the right to decent pay and good jobs.”
An article on Monday about a coalition of liberal groups planning a rally in  Washington on Saturday, using information provided by a high-level minister for the United Methodist Church, referred incorrectly to the church's role in the event. A board within the United Methodist Church has endorsed the principles of the rally, but the overall church has not endorsed the rally. Also, after the article was published, the church's director of communications said that the minister, the Rev. Amy Stapleton, was not speaking on behalf of the church.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 28, 2010
An article on Monday about plans by a coalition of liberal groups to march in Washington on Saturday, using information from a high-level minister for the United Methodist Church, misstated the church’s official position on the event. The church’s General Board of Church and Society has endorsed the march, but the event is not “co-sponsored” by the United Methodist Church itself.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 27, 2010, on page A13 of the New York edition.

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