Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. A long-held but never charged Guantanamo detainee was released, a new lawsuit targets armed groups stationed near ballot drop boxes in Arizona, abortion services restarted in Arizona, and more.
The U.S. government released a prisoner who was held at Guantanamo Bay for 20 years without charge. Saifullah Paracha, who is now 75 years old, was transferred to Pakistan in a secret military mission after months of negotiation. Paracha was accused of being an al-Qaeda sympathizer, but he was never charged with a crime despite being held for two decades. Paracha’s detention is indicative of what are widely-considered human rights abuses carried out at Guantanamo Bay.
Civil rights organization Protect Democracy filed suit against armed “vigilante surveillance” of ballot drop boxes in Arizona. Brought on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, the complaint alleges that right wing groups—some tied to the Oath Keepers—have been “actively planning, coordinating, and recruiting for widespread campaigns to surveil and intimidate Arizona voters at ballot drop boxes…and spread[ing] false information about legally valid forms of voting.” The suit is brought under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.
Arizona’s abortion ban from 1864 won’t be enforced for now. The state’s attorney general agreed to postpone enforcing the near total ban on abortions until at least next year. Abortions were halted statewide when a trial court judge allowed the ban to go into effect in late September, but the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an injunction against enforcement of the ban earlier this month. With assurance that the state’s attorney general won’t prosecute those performing abortion procedures while the law remains blocked, abortion care services resumed in Arizona on Thursday.
Sheriff’s deputies in Ohio were indicted for use of excessive force. A federal grand jury indicted Jeremy C. Mooney and William Stansberry for violating the unidentified victim’s constitutional rights. Mooney allegedly repeatedly used pepper spray and struck the victim while they were restrained and not posing a threat. Stansberry allegedly failed to intervene to prevent Mooney’s actions. If convicted, Mooney and Stansberry face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on each count, a fine of up to $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is prosecuting the case.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief in Moore v. Harper. Arguments in this case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this December. The case concerns the independent state legislature theory, a fringe legal theory that would give state legislatures near total control over election administration without any checks from state courts. The brief filed by LDF argues that this theory “defies the foundational principles of our constitutional democracy, invites unlawful race-based partisan gerrymandering, and must be forcefully rejected.” It further outlines how removing the ability of state courts to review congressional redistricting undermines democratic institutions and the rights of voters of color.