Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Justice for Mouctar Bah - support the fax campaign

deutsch, francais

Campaign against the efforts of the City of Dessau to destroy the existence of an African activist, because he protested as his friend was burnt in a police cell.

flyer of the campaign in german for download
video interview with Mouctar Bah

On the morning of 7th January 2005 Oury Jalloh, an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone was caught by police and put into custody. He was beaten, handcuffed and enchained on the feet on the ground of a cell. Four hours later the completely tiled cell was on fire and it is still open how this could happen. The policemen on duty turned off the alarm three times, instead of helping Jalloh. He torturously burned.

Since then friends of the West African refugee and antiracist initiatives in Germany are demanding “Clarification, Repatriation and Justice”. Under the slogan “Oury Jalloh, it was murder!” they are organizing numerous demonstrations in Dessau and other cities.

The main person of the protests: Mouctar Bah, a friend of Oury Jalloh and former carrier of an internet café in the town center of Dessau. Already in 2006 his license was taken off him, arguing he had not reacted offensively enough towards drug dealers near his shop. Since then he is working as an employee in the internet café. But this now is to be forbidden as well: because of supposedly complaints of neighbors about noise and dirt of his customers and because he – against the charges – has a “leading” position in the café, now he should not be allowed to work there at all.

Mouctar Bah opened his phone café four years ago in Dessau. It is one of the rare places in Dessau where African refugees can meet and feel safe. But after the death of Oury Jalloh he became object to the attention of the authorities. Under the pressure of the “Initiative Oury Jalloh”, which was founded by Bah, the prosecution office had to give out the burnt corpse of the dead refugee for a second and independent autopsy. Herein suddenly a broken nose was diagnosed, which was missed during the first round. In the documentation “Death in the Cell” of the TV-Channel WDR and also in interviews with other media representatives Bah doubts the explanations of the prosecution office about Jallohs death, which says that Oury Jalloh burnt himself, despite the bonds.

The authorities did not like him even before. Now for three years the Ordnungsamt (munipical department for public order, or the city’s regulatory agency) is trying to take off Mouctar Bah his business license. The fact that people with black color had their meeting point at his shop seemed to be enough reason to argue that it was a drug trafficking spot.

But Mouctar Bah himself had reported drug dealers several times to the police. Now he is being accused of having reported the dealers after knowing that the police had noticed them as well. The court where Bah protested against the withdrawal of his license argued so. The court confirmed the decision of the authorities from the year 2006. Mouctar Bah had to give up his shop. The new owner employed him in the cafe.

After one year he asked for the allowance of a new license. The Ordnungsamt can only deny this if there are cogent arguments.

The authorities think there are good reasons, why Mouctar Bah should not have the license, as follows:
1. Because he works on his own in the shop, he must have a ‘leading position’ which is against the charges.
2. His customers would pollute the environment of the café, urinate at the walls and produce a lot of noise.
3. The drug dealing was continued.
4. Especially Africans would visit the shop, police had observed, and leave it and return “several times a day (…) either by foot or via bicycle”.
5. Some of the visitors of the café had left their Landkreis and broken the rule of residency.

The Ordnungsamt also points at four reports, which were put against Bah. Two of them were by the same neighbor of the café, who does not really like the presence of the Africans anyway. The well known right wing neighbor has insulted Bah several times in front of the café. Twice he even hit Mouctar Bah – the second time Bah defended himself and the neighbor had to be medicated. Out of revenge he reported twice to the police. In the first case, Bah was found not guilty by the judge, who saw Bah to be the victim. The second case is still on. The third report is from a policeman, who felt insulted by Bah during the court case. The fourth case finally was stopped by the prosecution office before a while.
The simple fact that someone has reported Bah to the police, means to the Ordnungsamt that Bah has “great character deficiency”.

Despite all of this the Ordnungsamt declares: “Behavior, which repeatedly needs police investigation, shows great character deficiency of the person and a lack of acceptance of the norms of social intercourse and of laws of the Federal Republic of Germany, independent of the results of those investigations.”

The simple fact, that there were reports against Bah, independent of the results of investigations, seem to be enough to prove “great character deficiency”. This shows how strongly the Ordnungsamt wishes to discredit Bah. Mouctar Bah is supposed to be responsible for the behavior of his customers, because they are focused by police due to their color of skin and their status. That he was taking care of the cleaning of the area and of the activities of his customers is being interpreted as “cognizance”. The fact that Bah reported to the police about drug dealing means to the administration that he had known about drug dealing before. The phone café is even supposed to have provoked the activities of his customers: “There are no doubts that the incidents on the Friedrich-Naumann-Straße only happened because of the existence of the shop with telecommunication services.”

Since March 2007 two policemen are in front of the court because of the death of Oury Jalloh. Clarification is not in sight – because the colleagues keep silent.
Meanwhile the police and the town of Dessau have become known for their friendly intercourse with far right activities and are now trying to produce another picture in the public. But if it is about Non-Germans or people with black skin, then still they can continue with their disrespect and discrimination – the bureaucratic means they have.
What exactly the “acceptance of the norms of social intercourse and of laws of the Federal Republic of Germany” means, seems to be under the definition power of the administration, who also has the power to enforce the definition.

Everyday people with dark skin are affected by this definition – in the streets or behind the walls of police offices. Since years Mouctar Bah must resist the efforts of the authorities to neglect his existence in this town. Since the death of Oury Jalloh this pressure has increased.

The Dessau administration have relied on their experience that in this case too, this could happen without publicity and hoped to continue the exclusion of refugees and migrants. They shall not succeed! This is why we demand a broad solidarity with Mouctar Bah. Please take part of the fax campaign.

In SOLIDARITY we BREAK the silence

Agro-chemicals continue to sicken Chile's farm workers

The latest incidents of Agro-Chemical poisoning coincide with the progression of harvest time in Chile
The latest incidents of Agro-Chemical poisoning coincide with the progression of harvest time in Chile
Photo courtesy of Monica Wyant


Thirteen farm workers from the Region VII town of Pelarco recently became ill after being sprayed with toxic chemicals known as plaguicides. The accident occurred days after Chile’s Health Ministry disclosed that 710 farmers were victims of similar accidents nationwide in 2007, prompting labor advocates to call for greater control over the chemical substances.

“Plaguicides” is an all-inclusive term that refers to a wide range of agrochemicals: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. On average, says the Health Ministry, some 700 people suffer acute poisonings from plaguicides every year in Chile. (ST, Sept. 7, 2007)

According to the NGO Chilean Plaguicide Action Network (RAP-AL), the latest incident took place on Jan. 16 in a small farming sector called Bajo Lagunilla, located 15 kilometers from Talca. The workers, all employees of the company Sociedad Agricola Beyce, notified their bosses that they were going to be working in the fields. In spite of this warning, company officials proceeded to spray the entire area—and the workers—with the toxic insecticide Zero 5 EC.

The thirteen employees immediately came down with severe headaches, nausea, stomach aches, and shivers, and all of them were hospitalized. After taking chemical baths to remove the insecticides, the workers were placed under observation for several days before allowed to return home.

Shortly after the incident, Region XII Health and Labor Ministry officials investigated both Sociedad Agricola Beyce and Fumital, the company which carried out the fumigation.

The Director of the Region VII Work Authority JoaquÌn Torres told the Santiago Times that the companies had violated a range of industry safety norms mandating, among other precautions, the provisioning of adequate protective gear, the constructing of chemical showers and emergency cellars in the event of an accident, and the barring of fumigation while workers are present. He said both companies were shut down after the accident occurred, and were only allowed to reopen after complying with regulations and paying a fine of Ch$3.5 million pesos (US$7,500).

“The businesses were fined not only for breaking industry standards, but also because they did not report the accident to local authorities… We only managed to find out about this incident through local media,” said Torres.

“This incident shows us that, in Chile, there continue to be bad practices in the agriculture industry. There is little concern for both the health of the workers who are exposed to plaguicides and environmental contamination as a whole,” RAP-AL Director MarÌa Elena Rozas told the Santiago Times. “The checks that were carried out later on revealed a completely defenseless workforce, and thus serious violations of industry norms. Above all, this accident reminds us that, regardless of their classification, all plaguicides are dangerous.”

Rosas also called on Chile’s Agriculture and Cattle Service (SAG) to apply far stiffer penalties to companies that put workers at risk. “The fines, as they stand now, do not represent a strong enough fine for these companies, and they will not help things change.”

The 710 workers cited by Chile’s Health Ministry who were accidentally sprayed with agro-chemicals in 2007 oftentimes risked serious health threats. More than 39 percent of those accidents involved chemicals the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies as 1a and 1b: considered “extremely” and “very” dangerous, respectively.

Meanwhile, in 2005, at least 785 people were poisoned nationwide by plaguicides, according the Health Ministry. In roughly 85 percent of the cases, health authorities were able to identify the specific chemical involved. More than 150 of those cases (23 percent) involved chemicals classified as 1a and 1b: considered “extremely” and “very” dangerous, respectively. Nearly two thirds of the 1a/1b poisonings involved a chemical called metamidofos, distributed in Chile by the multinational Bayer Corporation under the trade names Tamaron and Baythroid.

The Health Ministry statistics, however, may just be the tip of the iceberg. The real number of poisonings, says Rosas, may be between 2,500 to 3,000. “What worries us is that for every one of those cases, there are many more that don’t get reported,” Rosas told the Santiago Times. “There are a lot of reasons not to report. It’s been calculated that in the best case scenario, for every case that’s reported, four go unreported” (ST, Sept. 7, 2007).

By Matt Malinowski (editorAT

See also the Open Letter to Bayer