UN experts urge US authorities to drop charges...
Scott Warren, an activist associated with the organization No More Deaths, is facing trial over federal charges that carry total maximum jail sentence of 20 years. Warren stands accused of one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor two migrants illegally into the United States and two counts of harboring ‘illegal’ migrants. Warren pleaded not guilty to all charges. No More Deaths has maintained that he and the organization have only offered humanitarian aid like food, water and medicine to the people trying to cross the international border through very harsh climatic conditions.
Warren along with the two undocumented immigrants were arrested in January 2018, by the US Border Patrol at a house at the edge of the town of Tuscon in Arizona, called “The Barn”. Warren’s trial has attracted national attention as it highlights the deep contradictions in US policy which triumphs “human rights” abroad, while it violates the basic human rights of migrants and even criminalizes citizens who attempt to provide humanitarian aid.
Even though border crossing constitutes a minority of the cases of undocumented immigration in the US, the incumbent administration of president Donald Trump has focused on intensifying punitive measures to bring an end to cross-border immigration. Ever since coming to power in 2017, the Trump administration has pushed for a very strong punitive measures to deprive entire regions in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts at the border, outside of normal human habitation, of food, water and other basic resources.
It has been estimated that since 2001, over 3,000 people have died trying to cross the border , either out of exhaustion and dehydration in the desert or after getting attacked by animals and robbers. Several humanitarian aid organizations like No More Deaths, Humane Borders and Tucson Samaritans have emerged after local communities have taken it upon themselves to bring down the deaths in the region. However, they have been faced with numerous problems with the government.
In the trials that began on May 26, at the US District Courthouse in Tucson, dozens had assembled outside the court in support of Warren. His argument in the case has asserted that there has been no attempt on the part of him or the organization to transport or harbor any immigrants, contrary to what has been accused by the Patrol agents. His attorney Greg Kuykendall reportedly told the jurors, “Scott Warren never committed anything but basic human kindness.” The assistant US attorney, Nate Walters, who represents the prosecution has disputed that the case is about No More Deaths or humanitarian aid, but about Warren’s intention of transporting people illegally and “to shield illegal aliens from law enforcement for several days.”
But that is hardly a clear distinction for the many volunteers and aid groups who leave water and food in the desert, or who take part in search and rescue efforts -- or even for passersby who might stop to help struggling border crossers who've reached a highway.
The question of what constitutes humanitarianism, at a time when the government has actively created conditions at the border whereby any attempt at crossing it is now near-fatal, has been raised. The defense has also raised questions of whether aid workers should simply stop at leaving supplies in the desert or can take in and care for those that have been fatally weakened by the arduous journey.
Supporters of Warren believe that the federal prosecution against humanitarian aid is to have nationwide implications for aid workers everywhere. "I do think they're making an example of him," said Mark Warren, Scott Warren's father, outside the courtroom. "He's the means by which they mean to send a message."
Outside the Tucson federal court, supporters had to share the sidewalk with noisy rush-hour traffic. There were supporters from California, Florida, Colorado, Texas and the Carolinas.
Moreover, UN human rights experts have expressed grave concerns about criminal charges brought against Scott Warren. “Providing humanitarian aid is not a crime. We urge the US authorities to immediately drop all charges against Scott Warren,” the experts said. “The vital and legitimate humanitarian work of Scott Warren and No More Deaths upholds the right to life and prevents the deaths of migrants and asylum seekers at the US-Mexican border,” “The prosecution of Scott Warren represents an unacceptable escalation of existing patterns criminalising migrant rights defenders along the migrant caravan routes.”