A United Nations treaty against racism, the International Convention to End all forms of Racial Discrimination, requires the United States to submit to periodic review of its compliance with the treaty. On track for the review process is the issue of COINTELPRO-era convictions of Black Panthers and others. The Omaha Two are Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) convicted of the 1970 murder of an Omaha, Nebraska policeman in a trial manipulated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence operation. A FBI Laboratory report on the identity of an anonymous 911 caller that lured the police to a bomb ambush was withheld under orders from J. Edgar Hoover, director of the federal agency.
Although the Omaha Two case, and others, were state court convictions, three Non-Government Organizations have complained to the Human Rights Council in conjunction with the ICRED Committee about the failure of the federal government to assure that discrimination in the criminal justice system is eliminated. The three NGO complainants are the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination, the Jericho Movement for Amnesty & Freedom, and the Yamasi People.
The issue of political prisoners in America was aired in mid-August in Geneva, Switzerland at the 85th Session of the ICRED Committee. The NGO summary to the Committee set out the issues: “The imprisonment of these aged, frail, and infirmed human rights advocates reflects continued persistent, virulent systemic racial discrimination, pernicious suppression of dissent, and federal, state and local government and law enforcement commitment to the disgraced and outlawed policies and practices of COINTELPRO.”
The Obama administration could take corrective action under ICRED provisions and establish a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The President could also “incentivize states to release or fairly retry state held political activists.” Additionally, the “Department of Justice Cold Cases and Special Prosecution Unit should be tasked to investigate all COINTELPRO/Civil Rights Era political activists’ convictions and deaths for human rights violations.”
The Obama administration will be expected to answer what steps have been taken to address COINTELPRO prisoners and “bring a close to a shameful chapter in United States history.” Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa are specifically named in Appendix D of a NGO report to the ICRED Committee as priority cases for review.
Efia Nwangaza, director of the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination in Greenville, South Carolina will also take the matter of COINTELPRO prisoners to the Committee Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment at a session in November. Nwangaza said following an appearance in Geneva, “It’s critical to keep imprisoned COINTELPRO and all Civil Rights Era political activists and human rights defenders on the global human rights agenda.”
The United States was a signatory to the anti-racism treaty in 1966 and has been quick to point out human rights problems in other countries. The periodic review process of ICRED is scheduled to take up problems in the United States in the spring of 2015 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The treaty allows NGO complainants to confront their own governments in a structured process that prevents issues from being ignored by signatory nations. The issue of the Omaha Two, although largely ignored in America, has been the subject of international attention for decades. In April 1980, investigative Group 489 of Amnesty International issued a report in Bremen, West Germany that concluded Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were “political prisoners” unjustly convicted. “They were sentenced for a crime they didn’t commit because of their radical political beliefs.”
The Omaha Two remain imprisoned at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary where they continue to deny any role in the policeman’s murder. Mondo we Langa has a pending post-conviction appeal before the Nebraska Supreme Court. No date has been set for a decision on the appeal.