Advancing Human Rights 2013: Dignity. USHRN Biannual National Conference

December 05, 2013

USHRN Biannual National Conference
Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia
December 6-8, 2013
Atlanta, GA 30339
Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project Director, of the ACLU of Georgia, will be presenting on two workshop/panels.

Sen. Isakson Defends Government Surveillance Program

June 10, 2013

WABE News
Jonathan Shapiro

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is defending the government surveillance program revealed to be gathering call logs from millions of Verizon phone subscribers.

Speaking after a conference in downtown Atlanta, Iskason said it’s been an important tool in preventing terrorist attacks.

“I can’t talk about some of the things that I know with regard to what our security procedures are, but I am satisfied that there’s no violation of the civil rights of an American citizen in there.”

The National Security Agency and others in the intelligence community are authorized to collect the call logs under 2001’s Patriot Act. Congress maintains oversight and federal judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court must approve all data requests. In 2011, Congress renewed the Patriot Act for an additional four years.

Protestors Rally Outside Drone Conference in Buckhead

May 29, 2013

Protestors Rally Outside Drone Conference in Buckhead

90.1 FM WABE
Jonathan Shapiro

Protestors gathered in Atlanta Tuesday to rally against the nation’s drone strike program. They demonstrated outside a Buckhead hotel currently hosting a national conference on drone aircraft.

As nearby cars whizzed by Peachtree Street, long-time Atlanta civil rights advocate and Air Force veteran Joe Beasley said the drone strikes need to stop.

“I would implore President Obama to move away from these drones. It’s just deplorable. It’s just cowardice,” said Beasley.

He was flanked by about two dozen protestors with signs calling for an end to the nation’s drone strike program.

The rally comes just a week after the president vowed to dramatically reduce drone strikes and make the program more transparent. He said there'd be a new emphasis on capturing suspects instead of killing them and targeting only those who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the U.S. He also pledged to transfer oversight of the program from the CIA to the Pentagon, a move that would make more information available to the public.

But at the rally, Georgia ACLU attorney Azadeh Shahshahani said the president didn't go far enough.

“To the extent that there’s going to be extra oversight, that’s good, but it doesn’t end the problem that the program is going to continue and people far from any battlefield without charge or trial are going to be killed,” said Shahshahani.

A recent Gallup poll shows 65 percent of Americans support the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists based overseas. That number drops to 41 percent when targeting U.S. citizens in other countries who are suspected of terrorism.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington after the president’s counterterrorism remarks, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued the use of covert drone strikes remains a vital tool in the War on Terror.

“To open the books, so to speak, on the drone program does not make America a safer place to live.”

And at an event held Tuesday in Sandy Springs, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson called drone technology “remarkable” and expressed support for the continued use of drones in intelligence-gathering and terrorist assassinations.

“The day we decide we are no longer going to participate is the day the terrorists have won that battle and they will hold us to cower in fear,” said Isakson.

But Georgia State University political science professor Chip Carey said at the rally the use of targeted drone strikes is “shortsighted.” He argued drones kill civilians and thereby breed more terrorists. Plus, he said, the technological gap is closing quickly.

“Between 50 to 70 countries have drone technology now including Iran. It’s only a matter of time before what goes around will come around."

Carey argued drones pose as much danger as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and therefore should be tightly controlled. He wants the U.S. to enter into a binding international arms treaty banning their use.

Atlanta anti-drone activists to rally at drone convention

May 24, 2013

Atlanta anti-drone activists to rally at drone convention

Atlantans alarmed by the proliferation of targeted assassinations, surveillance and spying by drones will hold apress conference and protest at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 28 outside the Grand HyattAtlantahotel,3300 Peachtree Road NE.

That will be the opening morning of the international convention of the drone industry at the Grand Hyatt. The convention promises to bring together “representatives from academia, industry, federal/state agencies, government, the private sector, users, practitioners and engineers” who are working to expand the use of drones, or “unmanned aerial vehicles” (http://www.uasconferences.com/).

“I oppose the use of drones and other forms of targeted assassinations because of the likelihood that they will cause proliferation, an arms race and increasing use of drones around the world,” said Professor Henry (Chip) Carey of Georgia State University. “I am also concerned about the lack of democratic accountability for targeting and civilian casualties, which has backfired as a counter-terrorism technique.”

“The CIA and the military are carrying out illegal ‘targeted killings’ of people far from any battlefield, without charge or trial,” adds Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and president of the National Lawyers Guild. “The executive branch claims the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret evidence. The government must be held to account when it carries out such illegal killings in violation of the Constitution and international law.”

Other speakers will include Joe Beasley, president of African Ascension and southeast regional director of Rainbow Push; Courtney Hanson, public outreach director, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND); and Sobukwe Shukura of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party. Dawn Gibson, co-coordinator of the Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, will moderate the press conference.

Rallies will continue from 9 to 10 a.m. each day of the convention, which ends Friday, May 31.

The Future of American Warfare? Assessing the Legality of the Obama Administration's Use of Military Drones

May 21, 2013

The Georgia Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents:

The Future of American Warfare?

Assessing the Legality of the Obama Administration's Use of Military Drones

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP
One Atlantic Center
1201 West Peachtree Street
Suite 3200
Atlanta, GA

Featuring:

  • The Honorable Bob Barr, Former United States Representative, 7th Congressional District of Georgia; Former Presidential Candidate, Libertarian Party
  • Laurie Blank, Director, International Humanitarian Law Clinic, Emory University School of Law
  • Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrant Rights Project Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia
  • Todd Stein, Lecturer, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology; Former General Counsel, Legislative Director, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)

Moderated By:

  • Neil Kinkopf, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law; Former Special Assistant, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice; Member, Board of Advisors, ACS Georgia Lawyer Chapter

To what extent does the United States Constitution and current federal law authorize the use of military drones in counter-terrorism operations? Come hear a panel discussion on the constitutionality of President Obama’s policy on the use of drones, including the limits to their use, whether and when they could be used on American citizens, and the merits of constitutional concerns raised on the political left and the political right.

RSVP here

The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project is celebrating its fifth anniversary!

March 27, 2013

The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project is celebrating its fifth anniversary! Founded in March 2008, the project works to bring Georgia into compliance with international human rights and U.S. constitutional standards in treatment of refugees and immigrant communities, including those in detention. This project engages ACLU of Georgia staff and volunteers in litigation, legislative advocacy, human rights documentation, coalition-building, public education, attorney training, and community organizing to address a range of issues. Here you can find a few of our accomplishments over the past five years.

Download Brochure >>

ACLU of Georgia's Azadeh Shahshahani is featured in this article about Asian-Americans in Southern politics.

March 14, 2013

Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia

Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.

Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.

Much of Shahshahani’s work has also focused on prisoner’s rights. She authored a report in May 2012 detailing poor conditions in the privately run prisons used to detain undocumented immigrants. Most of the problems revolved around abysmal medical care for sick or injured prisoners. Shahshahani has written prolifically in print media and given TV interviews on the need for immigration authorities to stop using private companies to run prisons. These private firms are “committed to generating money for their investors,” she said.

Read more >>>

ACLU of Georgia's Azadeh Shahshahani is featured in this article about Asian-Americans in Southern politics

February 27, 2013

Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia

Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.

Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.

- See more >>

***Georgia Detention Watch to Hold Vigil Calling for Shutting Down of Stewart ***

November 14, 2012

***PRESS CONFERENCE/VIGIL:***

***Georgia Detention Watch to Hold Vigil Calling for Shutting Down of Stewart ***

***Friday, 10 am, Lumpkin Town Square***

Community Leaders Hold Vigil and Launch New Campaign to “Expose and Close” Widespread Abuse at Stewart and Irwin Detention Centers

New Report Calls Stewart and Irwin two of the 10 Worst Detention Centers in the Country and Demands President Obama Restore Basic Dignity

Atlanta, Georgia–The immigration detention system in the United States has grown drastically over the last 15 years and the appalling conditions in the detention centers that house immigrants have reached a tipping point.

President Obama made promises to reform this inhumane system in 2009, but the reality on the ground has not changed. Now, conditions at the jails and prisons that house immigrants have gotten so bad, the only option is to begin shutting them down.

On Friday, November 16th, as part of a nationwide campaign launch, community leaders and advocates will hold their sixth vigil at the Stewart Detention Center and release a report designating it and the Irwin County Detention Center as two of the ten worst in the country. Leaders will call on President Obama to close the prison-like facilities in Stewart and Irwin counties, and issue a list of reforms to ensure the safety, dignity, and well-being of immigrants held in detention.

The report will follow the May 2012 ACLU of Georgia report “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia” which detailed abuses at the two facilities and called for their closure.

This action is part of a series of reports and coordinated effort to highlight ten detention centers across the nation that exemplify the appalling conditions of immigrant detention, including Etowah County Detention Center (AL), Pinal County Jail (AZ), Houston Processing Center (TX), Polk County Detention Facility (TX), Stewart Detention Center (GA), Irwin County Jail (GA), Hudson County Jail (NJ), Theo Lacy Detention Center (CA), Tri-County Detention Center (IL), and Baker County Jail (FL).

WHAT:Vigil and march to “Expose and Close” Stewart and Irwin Detention Centers

WHEN:Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10 a.m.

WHO:Anton Flores-Maisonet,Alterna

Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia

Chad Hyatt, musician and pastor at Mercy Community Church (Atlanta)

Fr. Ishmael Morenofrom Honduras

Jason Chin, musician

Sister JoAnn Persch, Sisters of Mercy (Chicago)

Laria Marie Vides, wife of detainee

Mary Strauss, wife of detainee

Pedro Guzman, formerly detained at Stewart Detention Center

The States,musical group

Terence Courtney,Black Alliance for Just Immigration

This vigil will be organized by Georgia Detention Watch in collaboration with SOA Watch, ACLU of Georgia, Alterna, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Footprints for Peace, Grassroots Leadership, International Action Center of Atlanta, National Lawyer Guild Georgia Chapter, Nipponzan Myohoji Atlanta Dojo and the Southern Anti-Racist Network,.

WHERE:The vigil begins at the Lumpkin, GA town square located at the intersection of Main Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. The march will end two miles away at the Stewart Detention Center on CCA Road, also in Lumpkin.

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Feds Pay Thousands For Wrongful Deportation

October 23, 2012

GPB News
Mon, October 22, 2012
by Ellen Reinhardt

This month Mark Lyttle, an American citizen from North Carolina who has mental disabilities, received a 175 thousand dollar settlement from the federal government. A federal district court in Georgia found the government wrongfully deported him Mexico.
In 2008 Lyttle was inexplicably referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. That’s despite the fact the bi-polar man had never been to Mexico, shares no Mexican heritage and spoke no Spanish.But he was detained and deported to Mexico with just three dollars in his pocket.
Azadeh Shahshahani with the Georgia ACLU , which represented him, says Lyttle spent 125 days wandering central America.
She says he was" living off the streets and homeless shelters, and begging. And he had no way to prove his identity either, so he was imprisoned at times.“
Ultimately, someone with the American Embassy in Guatemala helped him get back to the U.S.
ICE has refused comment on Lyttle’s case. A spokesman says they now offer a 24-hour hotline to help detainees. ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant Field office for immediate action. Shahshahani says that is a good first step. But she says people with mental disabilities need a court-appointed lawyer to ensure their rights are protected during the deportation process.
She says “The ACLU has done a study on documented cases where individuals who could not even remember their own names were left to languish in detention centers with nobody really caring what happens to them until an attorney or advocate discovers their fate.”