Open World Conference of Workers
In Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights
Statement from Baldemar Velasquez on District Judge William Yohn's Ruling of Dec. 18, 2001
Mumia Must be Saved statement on the assassination of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham)
Open Letter to Kofi Annan requesting UN intervention in Mumia's case
December 11, 2000 delegation to Washington D.C.:
Support International Delegation request for support and Open Letter to Janet Reno
Full Report and Follow-Up Efforts of the delegation
January 12, 2000 delegation to Washington D.C.:
By Dominique Vincent
A rally of close to 10,000 unionists and activists was held in Paris on October 15 to build support for the Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence and Democratic Rights (OWC), which will be held in San Francisco on Feb. 11-14 of the year 2000.
The Paris rally, held at the Palais des Sports [Sports Palace], was chaired by Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC/AFL-CIO) and co-chair of the Labor Party in the United States. Velasquez is also a member of the Organizing Committee of the OWC.
Speakers from trade unions and political parties from all continents addressed the crowd, explaining the need to build an international labor fightback to defeat the onslaught of Global Capitalism (privatization, structural adjustment plans, union- busting, deregulation, and the list goes on).
One of the two focal points of the Paris rally was the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. (The other was the decision to organize a Europeanwide campaign to demand the renationalization of the railway systems. This campaign was proposed to the rally participants by Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT railworkers' union in Great Britain, in the aftermath of the deadly train accident in Paddington.]
Tetevi Norbert Gbikpi-Benissan, president of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Togo (UNSIT) and convener of the International Tribunal on Africa, reported on the six-city tour of the United States which he and Lybon Tiyani Mabasa, president of the Socialist Party of Azania (South Africa), conducted in late September with the goal of building support for the International Tribunal on Africa [see Tribunal Call in this issue].
Gbikpi-Benissan spoke of his multiple discussions with activists and leaders of the African American freedom struggle regarding the need to deepen and widen the fight to free Mumia. He also reported on the decision of Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge to sign a death warrant for Mumia on December 2.
Brothers Gbikpi-Benissan reviewed the mass demonstrations organized on April 24 throughout Africa and the world over by the International Liaison Committee for a Workers' International. Given the urgent situation, it now was necessary to step up the fight to free Mumia, Gbikpi-Benissan insisted.
Speaking on behalf of himself and Lybon Mabasa, Gbikpi-Benissan proposed to the rally and its keynote speakers that they promote an Open Letter to Bill Clinton demanding that he intervene and direct the Justice Department to conduct an immediate investigation into the violation of Mumia's civil rights at the hands of the Philadelphia police. Such a campaign, he said, would strengthen the fight to stop the execution and win a fair trial.
The Paris rally, with its participants from 30 countries, enthusiastically approved a massive signature-gathering campaign in support of this Open Letter. The campaign would include mass protest actions at U.S. embassies and consulates the world over, as well as high-level, broad-based delegations to the U.S. embassies. All the speakers on the platform, coming from different trade union and political traditions, agreed to constitute themselves as an International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal with the goal of promoting massive support for the Open Letter to Bill Clinton.
Another decision proposed by the rally organizers -- and approved by acclamation -- was to send a delegation from the rally to Washington, D.C., to present these demands to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and a representative of the Clinton administration. Following consultations with coordinators of the national Mumia coalition in the United States, the date of January 12, 2000, was chosen for the delegation to Washington.
Open Letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton
We call upon you because you have the power to prevent an irreparable injustice: the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Supreme Court of the United States has just rejected without any commentary the appeal submitted by Mumia Abu- Jamal's lawyers.
Whatever our country, our nationality, our political, philosophical or religious opinions, or the color of our skin, we the undersigned are staunch defenders of human rights and justice.
Mr. President: You know that any objective examination of the conditions of Mumia Abu- Jamal's trial shows that his elementary right to a fair trial was denied to him. In such conditions, his execution would be but an act of legalized murder.
You have the power and duty to prevent this.
In the name of justice, to which all citizens have a right, we call upon you with a sense of urgency and ask you to use the powers of your office to prevent the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and to ensure him the conditions for a new and fair trial."
Interview with Jim Lafferty, executive director of the Los Angeles National Lawyers Guild:
"A Justice Department Investigation of the Violations of Mumia's Civil Rights by the Philadelphia Police Department Would be a Boon to Mumia's Case" - Lafferty
Editors' Note: Following is an interview with Jim Lafferty, former national executive secretary of the National Lawyers Guild. The interview was conducted by Alan Benjamin. Lafferty is the current executive director of the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles. Benjamin is a member of the editorial board of The Organizer newspaper. Question: What are the possibilities, if in fact there are any, for U.S. President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno to intervene in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal?
Lafferty: Under the U.S. Constitution, Clinton cannot commute Mumia's sentence, but he could direct Janet Reno and the Justice Department to conduct an investigation of the Philadelphia Police Department to determine if Mumia's civil rights were violated.
It is important to point out that the Justice Department over the years has conducted a number of investigations of the Philadelphia Police Department. It has also been disclosed that the Prosecutor's Office was systematically training its subordinates in how to make sure that not too many Blacks would serve on a jury. As a result, it is estimated that as many as 300 to 400 cases might have to be retried.
Question: What are the police violations that would warrant a Justice Department investigation?
Lafferty: The list is long. One of the issues in Mumia's trial is precisely the exclusion of Black jurors. Mumia's lawyers, moreover, have disclosed that the police threatened witnesses if they testified on Mumia's behalf. There are sworn testimonies to this effect. Other witnesses sentenced for other crimes were given leniency if they fingered Mumia. The bullets were lost; the gun that allegedly killed Officer Faulkner could not have been fired by Mumia.
There is no doubt that there is evidence of a pattern of conspiracy on the part of the Philadelphia Police and the prosecutor to deprive Mumia of his civil rights. And the reason for this is obvious: Mumia has been a staunch advocate of civil rights for others; he has been outspoken in exposing police abuse in Philadelphia for years prior to his arrest.
Among the laws that appear to have been violated in Mumia's case are 14 U.S. Section 1985 and 18 U.S. Section 241 and 242.
It is worth noting, however, that the Justice Department could claim that the statute of limitations has run out because the alleged police violations of Mumia's civil rights occurred 17 years ago.
This claim cannot be sustained. There is a legal statute - 18 U.S. C183682 - that stipulates that if there is an ongoing pattern of civil rights violations, the statute of limitations has not run out. Under this provision, the statute of limitations does not run out until the last act has ended. In the case of Mumia, there has been on ongoing conspiracy. His rights in jail have been violated, new threats against potential witnesses have been documented, and the list goes on. Within the last five years there have been numerous violations of Mumia's civil rights.
Question: How could such a Justice Department investigation help Mumia's lawyers?
Lafferty: The Federal Judge assigned to review Mumia's case has a number of choices before him. He could review the record and determine there have been no errors. In such a case, Mumia's lawyers would appeal the decision. Or he could find there are serious errors and call for a new trial - in which case the prosecution would appeal.
Mumia's lawyers are pushing for a full evidentiary hearing as the basis for a new trial. If the Justice Department were to conduct an investigation into Mumia's case and were it to find that some of the allegations of Mumia's lawyers are in fact true, this would greatly assist the call for a full evidentiary hearing - and therefore for a new trial. It would be a boon to the case.
Question: French President Jacques Chirac recently stated that "U.S. President Clinton has no power under the U.S. Constitution to intervene in the Mumia case." How do you respond to this?
Lafferty: This is an overly narrow reading of what President Clinton can do. It may technically be true that he cannot grant clemency given that this is a state - not a federal crime - but he has the power to direct the Justice Department to conduct a civil rights investigation.
Any way you look at it, this is a case that cries out for the most thorough investigation. Here you have a president that has stated publicly he wants to improve race relations in the United States. You have a president that claims to champion civil rights. You would think that he would want to establish the entire truth in what can only be considered a highly charged and volatile case. And he certainly has the power to uncover the entire truth.
Question: What do you think of the initiative to send a broad-based delegation to Washington, D.C., to demand a new trial for Mumia.
Lafferty: It is a powerful and wonderful idea. Clinton and Reno would have to view such a delegation, representing the demand for a new trial expressed by millions of people the world over, with considerable respect. They would have to think twice before saying no.
Clinton and Reno have to be made to understand that Mumia is a cause-cˇl¸bre internationally. Mumia has never had his day in court. It will not bode well for the respect of the rule of law and for race relations as a whole if Mumia is denied his day in court. They should understand that every consideration should be given to ensure a new trial. s never had his day in court. It will not bode well for the respect of the rule of law and for race relations as a whole if Mumia is denied his day in court. They should understand that every consideration should be given to ensure a new trial.