First in Multi-Part Series of Reports by International Liaison Committee of Workers & Peoples (ILC):
1) Press Release from PHRF: International Tribunal Issues Preliminary Findings -- Bush, Blanco, Nagin Committed Crimes against Humanity
2) Statement by PHRF: How to Support the International Tribunal
3) Message from ILC Coordinator Daniel Gluckstein to International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
4) Statement by Tribunal Co-Convener Cynthia McKinney
5) Statement by Tribunal Co-Convener Louisa Hanoune
6) Excerpts from statement by Tribunal Co-Convener Charles Barron
7) Brief excerpts from testimonies and documents (part one)
1)International Tribunal Issues Preliminary Findings Bush, Blanco, Nagin Committed Crimes against Humanity
New Orleans - Between August 29, 2007 and September 2, 2007, a Tribunal of 16 esteemed jurists from nine countries, including Algeria, Brazil, France, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela, and the United States, convened in New Orleans to hear testimony by experts and survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
After hearing nearly 30 hours of testimony by hurricane survivors and experts -- covering government neglect and negligence in 15 areas, ranging from police brutality to environmental racism, from misappropriation of relief to gentrification -- the jurists announced their preliminary findings.
Jill Soffiyah Elijah, the Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School and Chief Judge for the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, announced the Tribunal's preliminary findings "It is our view that the U.S. government has committed crimes against humanity particularly in relation to its failure to maintain functional levees that should have protected the City of New Orleans from flooding; ... it was the reckless disregard and, in some instances, negligence of the U.S. government, the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans that created the devastation we continue to see today."
Elijah also announced that the Tribunal made preliminary findings that the federal, state and local governments are guilty of violating the human rights to life, dignity and recognition of personhood; the right to be free from racial discrimination -- especially as it pertains to the actions of law enforcement personnel and vigilantes; the right to return, resettlement and reintegration of internally displaced persons; the right to be free from degrading treatment and punishment; the right to freedom of movement; the right to adequate housing and education; the right to vote and participate in governance and the right to a fair trial; the right to liberty and security of person and the right to equal protection under the law. Both actions and failure to act by the governments had disproportionate devastating impact with respect to race and gender.
The jurists announced that they would deliver their final verdict on December 8, 2007 -- the second anniversary of the Katrina Survivors' Assembly. In the meantime, prosecutors will be submitting additional evidence and videotaped affidavits from an additional 25 survivors.
The prosecution team included experienced attorneys from respected legal associations around the country: the ACLU of New York, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, the US Human Rights Network, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights, Washington DC Legal Defender, Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Legal Empowerment Center and the Louisiana Justice Initiative.
The Tribunal Conveners -- representing movements for justice on four continents -- reminded Tribunal participants and witnesses of the solemnity of their task. Lybon Mabasa, a founding member with Stephen Biko of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, insisted, "We must hold these criminal governments to account in order to stop the world from sinking into barbarism and to make the world one where life is worth living."
People's Hurricane Relief Fund-Oversight Committee
1418 North Claiborne #2
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) tel. 301-0215 fax 301-0306
2) HOW TO SUPPORT THE INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL
People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition (PHRF)
1418 North Claiborne Avenue, Suite 2
New Orleans, LA 70116
Telephone: 504 301 0215
International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita adjourns
Preliminary Findings: US Federal, State, and Local governments committed crimes against humanity. Final Verdict: Due December 8th, 2007.
Greetings family, friends, neighbors and comrades!
Thank you all for supporting the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Your participation, along with delegations from nine countries, made the Tribunal a success. For the first time, the public -- both in the U.S. and the world -- had the opportunity to hear a comprehensive account of the crimes committed against the people of New Orleans and the Gulf. And, for the first time, an esteemed panel of international jurists gave careful consideration to charges of crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and other violations committed by the U.S. government.
However, if we are to gain restitution, justice and the right of return for all those displaced and forcibly removed, a tremendous amount of work remains. Join us in spreading the word about the Tribunal demands and building a strong reconstruction movement grounded in human rights principles to win the right to return. Below are a few suggestions offered by Tribunal organizers -- including the attached petition -- to advance the reconstruction movement.
As Lybon Mabasa, Tribunal Convener from South Africa, advised as he closed the proceedings, "We adjourn the Tribunal for today, but even greater work lies ahead. Only by committing ourselves to this struggle will we save ourselves from sinking into barbarism."
How to Support the International Tribunal
1. Build a Solidarity Committee in your city, region or state to continue the struggle for a just reconstruction and against ethnic cleansing in the Gulf Coast.
2. Join the PHRF action alert network at http://www.peopleshurricane.org/register/.
3. Conduct a report back about the Tribunal and the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Movement with your members and supporters. Call 504.301.0215 for speakers and video.
4. Organize a teach-in or community forum in your city, region, or state with members of the Tribunal organizing committee to aid with the national mobilization effort for the Tribunal and Survivors Assembly.
5. Agitate on the demands and recommendations stemming from the Tribunal by asking civic, labor, political, and religious organizations in your area to sign on as endorsers. The prosecution called for:
- Prosecution of Bush, Blanco, Barbour, Nagin, FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Homeland Security for crimes against humanity
- International and national support for the right of return and reconstruction with justice and dignity
6. Support the Tribunal Petition Drive to demand the right of return, adherence to the IDP principles, and federal works project by asking your members and supporters to gather signatures in your area. Petitions are available at either www.katrinatribunal.org or www.peopleshurricane.org.
7. Contact the various government officials in your city, region, and state and demand that they support legislation that recognizes the IDP status of Hurricane Survivors, provides restitution for Hurricane Survivors, supports the Gulf Coast Civic Works project, and holds all parties responsible for crimes against humanity liable for their actions.
8. Support the calls for censures, boycotts, and direct action issued by the Tribunal organizers and Survivors Assembly to pressure the U.S. government to accept the demands and recommendations of the Tribunal.
9. Support the International mobilization for the Tribunal by promoting its findings, verdict, and demands to your international contacts and allied organizations. Encourage them to start resolution initiatives, petition drives, and calls for international solidarity and action.
10. Demand that all Presidential candidates take a stand in support of the findings of the Tribunal, reparations, a just reconstruction, and the right of return for all Gulf Coast IDPs.
11. Raise funds to provide ongoing financial support to the Tribunal organizers to publish and distribute the findings, continuing raising awareness, and pursue national and international litigation.
In Unity and Struggle,
PHRF Executive Director
Tuesday, September 4th, 2007
Stay tuned to www.katrinatribunal.org for updates. Also please send pictures for thorough documentation.
3) Message from ILC Coordinator Daniel Gluckstein to the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Introductory Note: The following message was sent by Daniel Gluckstein, coordinator of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC), to the International Tribunal on Katrina. It was read to the Tribunal plenary session by Prosecution Team coordinator Kwame Kalimara and submitted to the Tribunal Judges for the record of the Tribunal proceedings. This message was also submitted to the national and international media that were covering the Tribunal.
Dear Friends, Dear Sisters and Brothers.
It's with great regret that, for reasons totally beyond my control, I was prevented at the last minute from attending the International Tribunal on Katrina at which I was given the honor of sitting as a judge. As you know from the start, the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, of which I am coordinator, and the Workers Party of France, of which I am general secretary, have brought their unconditional support to the proposal to build this tribunal.
For the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples the appalling situation inflicted upon the Black population of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina is an irrefutable indictment of all those who decided to leave the New Orleans and Gulf Coast people stranded, to submit them to wholesale devastation, to repression and then to an unmitigated operation of ethnic cleansing.
This recent persecution of the New Orleans Black population is but one more link in the chain -- in that long chain of oppression, genocide and persecutions aimed against the Black population.
The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples upholds the inalienable right of the oppressed and the exploited to organize independently for their own defense. This is why the ILC recognizes the New Orleans Black population's absolute right to judge those responsible for Katrina. It's their absolute right to hold those accountable in government at all levels -- federal, state and local -- for they all joined, to varying degrees, to forsake the New Orleans Black population, to leave them stranded to endure an appalling fate.
Likewise, it is the inalienable right of all the oppressed and exploited, and particularly the U.S. population's Black component, to build their own forms of political representation, to build if they so desire their own Reconstruction Party. Who is in a better position than the Black population to determine how best to organize independently to save and defend itself? The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, because it stands on the ground of the independence of the workers' movement, has supported and will support any step forward toward building an authentic party for the liberation of the Black people in the United States, a party which would represent the interests of the oppressed and exploited, included those of immigrants from Mexico, the rest of Latin America and beyond. This party would necessarily converge with the actions under way to build an authentic Labor Party, a part which itself defends the independent interests of all workers in the United States.
Likewise, the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples supports all those fighting back against the atrocious fate reserved for the populations of Africa. From Darfur to Rwanda, the fate reserved by imperialism for the African peoples shows the future that imperialism holds for them: one of plunder, of destruction of nations, a future of so-called ethnic wars that are artificially provoked from abroad. The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples supports the African peoples' struggles for their sovereignty, for their authentic independence. It supports in particular the fightback of the South African workers who brought down the regime of apartheid and who are bound to continue their struggle today for South Africa to become, in reality and not just in appearance, an authentic Black Republic where the majority, the Black majority, holds all elements of power.
The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples supports the efforts of the Black population in the Caribbean to unite in the anti-imperialist fightback against French, British and all other colonialisms, which claim the right to annex certain Caribbean islands within the framework or what they call "Tropical Europe."
The International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples supports the fightback of the poor people in Brazil, and in particular the Black people, to break with debt policies, to break with the U.S. government's dictate and to oppose the sending of French, Brazilian and other troops to occupy Haiti against the will of this country's people.
From South Africa to the United States, to the Caribbean, to Rwanda, the plight afflicted upon Black people does not come from any malediction. It derives from the regime of exploitation and oppression which assails all the peoples, all the workers, all the oppressed.
This is why the charges the Katrina Survivors have put forward, supported by a worldwide campaign, will judge those responsible; they will not be allowed to go unpunished for the appalling assault imposed upon the peoples of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast two years ago.
This Tribunal is a first step toward the judgment of all those responsible for crimes against the peoples. It's an encouragement for the oppressed and exploited the world over who are organizing to do away with the regime of exploitation founded upon the private ownership of the means of production, for the liberation of workers, youth and peoples of all continents from the chains of exploitation, war and oppression.
On behalf of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples, of the Workers Party of France, and in my own name, I send you wishes for the full success of the Katrina Tribunal proceedings.
Coordinator of International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples
General Secretary of Workers Party
4) STATEMENT BY TRIBUNAL CO-CONVENER CYNTHIA MCKINNEY TO OPENING RALLY
OF THE INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL
The New Orleans Times Picayune reported recently that Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats toured New Orleans, including the Lower Ninth Ward. They "signaled that the federal largesse would have limits." One Louisiana Democratic Representative indicated that they were "here to differentiate the needs from the wants."
However, the Democratic Congress has failed to differentiate Bush Administration needs from its wants and has granted the Administration legalized spying on the American people; funding for the surge and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and maneuvering room to do all this and more by taking impeachment "off the table."
Katrina survivors, through their People's Hurricane Relief Fund, are no longer willing to wait for justice; they have formed the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita International Tribunal to hold all levels of the government accountable for massive failures.
I have joined their call for justice and am proud to serve as a Convener of the Tribunal -- a huge undertaking with significant implications for an unresponsive government. Perhaps it will be the Katrina and Rita survivors who will finally put brakes on a government that is out of control in its utter disregard of the American people.
The world's generosity toward Katrina and Rita survivors was shunned even as today's needs go unfilled and under-funded. It is to that same international community that survivors now turn. I believe their cries for justice will be heard.
5) STATEMENT BY TRIBUNAL CO-CONVENER LOUIS HANOUNE, Deputy in the National Assembly of Algeria for the Workers Party, at closing of International Tribunal
[Note: This statement was delivered on Sept. 2 as an amicus solidarity statement to the Tribunal after the final witnesses had presented their testimonies and before the chief prosecutorâ€™s closing statement.]
I would like to express all my gratitude to the Tribunal organizers for allowing me to participate in these proceedings. Reality surpasses fiction in all we have seen and heard. Yesterday, we visited a ghost town, a city where most of the houses are empty. This has only added salt to the horrific wound inflicted since August 2005 upon the Survivors and upon that part of humanity that resides in all of us.
I stand in solidarity with you today because two years after the hurricane struck, it is unacceptable that the Survivors should go on enduring this nightmare.
I come from a country in Africa. I have seen the effects of catastrophes, earthquakes, and floods. But I have never seen anything like this. What we are witnessing here is ethnic cleansing!
So, yes, I stand in solidarity with you because I come from Africa, a continent that is sinking into chaos and whose survival requires the united efforts of all women and men of good will.
I stand in solidarity with you because throughout the testimonies presented to this Tribunal we heard war cries and words that recall the plight of the Palestinian people. They, like their counterparts here in the Gulf Coast, have the inalienable Right to Return.
I stand in solidarity with you because I come from the labor movement, where we learned to come to the immediate rescue of the most vulnerable among us.
As a women's rights activist, I am in solidarity with the Black women because they are, like their counterparts in Palestine, among the most vulnerable. They have been deprived of all they possess in life, even their role in binding their families together.
I will go back to sound the alarm against the oppression of the women in New Orleans, which is no less heinous than the oppression and double discrimination faced by the Palestinian women.
I am very proud and honored to have been here among you, and I give heart-felt thanks to those who allowed me to meet and hear the Survivors and witnesses who today, as the proud heirs of their ancestors, are waging a momentous fightback against the assaults they face day after day.
If you agree, I will be your spokesperson in my country and beyond -- in the Maghreb and the Middle East. I will report the facts that were delivered here, the testimonies presented, and the disaster that we witnessed first hand.
The Workers Party Parliamentary Group will organize parliamentary hearings on the Katrina Tribunal in Algeria.
I also stand here to support the proposal made by my Brazilian colleague earlier in our proceedings when he called on us to get more elected officials around the world to support the Tribunal verdict and its demands. I would thus like to make a proposal: Would it be possible to convene an International Parliamentary Conference on Katrina? It could take place in Brazil -- but if that were not possible, it could be held in my country.
To conclude, I would like to quote the Lebanese thinker and writer Jibran Khalil Jibran who wrote the following at the beginning of the last century: "Woe be it to any nation where one single component claims to represent the entire nation."
Of course, we do not wish misfortune on any nation! That is why I join Tunisian poet Abu Kacem Chaabi in affirming the following in relation to our struggles for national independence: "When the people decide to live, the night must disappear, the dawn will rise and the chains will be broken."
Yes, hand in hand, we will join our efforts to break the chains of oppression and exploitation, to champion the right of the Black people to live, the right of all to live in dignity, to live from their work, and to proclaim that the future belongs to us!
6) Excerpts from Statement by Charles Barron, City Councilmember in New York and Co-convener of the Tribunal:
"The most horrible crime since slavery"
Yesterday, the judges went to visit the neighborhoods that were flooded, particularly the Lower 9th Ward. We saw a ghost town. We heard poignant testimonies.
They want to change the demographics of this town. They want to make it a tourist center, something like Disneyland. This, based on the evidence, is the biggest and most horrible crime since slavery!
We heard the testimony of Brother Malik Rahim and we saw his video. Malik was there on death row. He took some gun shots from white vigilante thugs. He told us, "They fired on us like we were rabbits," but then he added, "Of course, this becomes harder when the rabbits take up arms."
The Tribunal can be our weapon. We are now armed rabbits. We are going to use this weapon. .... That is what I will bring back to New York. We did not come here to hear about misery, complaints, and tears. We came to say: "Enough is enough!"
7) Testimonies and Documents - Part 1
"They closed Charity Hospital"
"They closed Charity hospital. Of course, the hospital lacked resources, but most of the patients were poor Blacks without social coverage. These people were abandoned when it closed down. There is a hospital 80 miles from Charity Hospital, but it is too expensive for low-income people.
Since Katrina, many chronic illnesses have developed. There are problems of depression, post-traumatic disorders, particularly among the people living in the FEMA trailers. There has been a sharp rise in the number of illnesses and the death rate. The epidemics specialists see this, but the state minimizes the mortality rates.
Numerous children lost their parents, their homes, and their school. They were criminalized. They police are called into school because the children have crises. The media only shows violence. There are more cops in the schools than teachers.
The state doesn't offer enough beds to support and care for the youth. Charity Hospital had a psychiatric wing with over one hundred beds. To this day, none of these beds has been re-opened elsewhere!"
-- from a testimony
"It feels like the hurricane hit yesterday"
Chriss Kromm, director of Southern Studies and co-editor of the Observatory of the Reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, declared to the Financial Times (August 28, 2007)
"What hits you when you visit the region are the huge tracts of land between New Orleans in Louisiana and Biloxi in Mississippi, where it seems like the hurricane hit yesterday. There are miles and miles of devastation.
It is revolting to see how little things have changed. Out of the US$116 billion in aid allocated by the federal government following Katrina, only an estimated 20% of the funds have gone to use."
Citizens of New Orleans, the vast of majority of whom are Black
workers, came to testify to the destruction that reigns in the city.
"No protection against flooding for Blacks in New Orleans"
On June 20, 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers printed signs concerning the flood risk in the neighborhoods following the repair-work of the levees since Katrina.
The signs demonstrate that the white residential zones have a much lower flood risk, 1.7 meters less, because of the construction of pumps and container walls. The majority of the Black neighborhoods have seen no drop in flood risk or, at best, have seen a reduction of 15 to 60 centimeters of water.
Blacks are paying more than whites to insure their houses, and they spend more to reconstruct houses that are threatened with being flooded for several years. The racial discrimination in the choices made by the Army Corps of Engineers constitutes a denial of the right of return for the Black population and constitutes a form of ethnic cleansing.â€
(Excerpt from a text presented by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights at the opening of the Tribunal.)