Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Working on the Rule of Law in Palestine

John McKay was fired by the George W. Bush Administration from his post as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, which should be reason enough for you to want to listen to him.  But more importantly, he seems like a man of integrity with a strong sense of justice. In any case, he has an interesting story to tell.

After his firing from the U.S. Attorney post he joined the faculty at University of Seattle School of Law.  Seattle University is a Jesuit institution.  They too have a strong commitment to social justice projects.  So for the past 15 months, and through the spring of 2015, professor McKay is back on loan to the U.S. Government.  He is living in Ramallah, Palestine, where he heads up a program that works with 30 Palestinian lawyers, former police offers, technologists, analysts and Palestinian prosecutors to enhance public safety, human rights, and the rule of law.  His salary is paid by the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. It's part of the U.S. commitment under the Oslo accords.

One of the key things they're working on, says McKay, is for the Palestinian Authority to rely less on witness testimony and more on physical and other forensic evidence. By overemphasizing witness testimony, says McKay, the system is geared towards extracting confessions in every case, which leads to abuses of human rights and unreliable testimony.

On September 16, 2014, professor McKay spoke at the law school about his work in Palestine, the people, the food, the occupation, and his work.  His talk outlines the arc of oppressive military occupation and rule in Northern Ireland and compares this to the current situation in Palestine, with an eye to lessons learned.  He briefly touches on Guantanamo, as well as Operation Protective Edge.

If you have an interest in the history of the Northern Ireland "troubles" and the current situation in Palestine, this talk is a very interesting hour.

Here is a link to his talk.  His talk starts at 11:23 and I would go straight there.

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