By Kaitlin Smalling
Gender equality, competitive economic development, and standard transportation, agricultural, and energy standards are among the principles that the European Union emulates. The union emphasizes social and economic development, so when nations attempt to qualify for the Union it often garners Union-wide attention. Such is the case of Turkey: since 2001, it has tried to reform itself to European Union standards. Unfortunately, Turkey cannot reform itself on its own and in the last few steps of application to the EU, Turkey has required aid to transform its social principles.
In fact, the European Nation Neighborhood Policy Commissioner, Stefan Fule, contributed a $317 million reform package to Turkey on Friday, November 22, 2013. This package specifically concentrated on strengthening the current judiciary system by creating a more self-sufficient and objective institution to enforce laws that will qualify them for the EU.
However, sometimes it is less a matter of money and a more a matter of mindset. The Turkish people have given their government a hard time about the new changes because not all of them want to join the European Union. To deter aid-giving nations from helping Turkey qualify to the EU, violent demonstrations by a Kurdish minority in the capital have become the norm. For example, protesters gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for the two weeks leading up to June 11, 2013, when they rioted against police to prevent the modernization of the square and the government on principle. They argue that the changing government involves more of a parliamentary approach rather than a participatory approach, which increases the chances that voices are ignored. The Turkish government figures that admission to the EU may aid in the longstanding problem with the Kurdish minority, but it is currently just exacerbating the already established political polarization.
Unfortunately, the rebellious citizens are not the only thing standing in the way of Turkey’s qualification: Turkey’s policies regarding women in the political sphere are not up to par for EU standards. Although 1% of Turkish municipalities have female mayors, that is insufficient for the gender equality that EU members boast. In addition to this difference in ideals, not all aid-giving countries want Turkey to be admitted because those countries send aid to help areas like infrastructure instead of aid to help transform the judiciary and government itself for qualification. For instance, Great Britain contributed £1.2 Billion for Turkish sewage and infrastructure improvements, but the EU Commission only just realized this last week. Not only does this question if the EU Commission tracks where aid is going, but it also tells Turkey that even its aid giving allies are not necessarily on its side in getting admitted; they are simply concerned about being able to say they aided Turkey in its application.
This drew attention to the financial assistance program Turkey was working with, which is called the Accession Partnership document. The Accession Partnership Document identifies areas where progress is needed the most to prepare for accession, or admittance to the EU. Part of its initiative is to increase democratized versions of human rights, macroeconomic stabilization, and communicative powers in national legislation. Unfortunately, with the direction the aid packages are headed, the EU Commission is considering an 11% decrease in foreign aid spending in the 2014-2020 budget. This not only implies that Turkey will be more isolated in its attempt to gain admittance to the EU, but also implies that other disadvantaged and developing nations will not receive as much aid as prior. Is it fair to these countries that nations like Turkey are indirectly taking away from their care packages when they need it the most? In many cases it’s not, but it’s ultimately up to the people of Turkey to propel themselves in the direction of EU and international standards.
By Kaitlin Smalling
Political boundaries exist not only to satisfy land ownership, but also to separate cultural differences and avoid conflict. The trade-off between security and rights protection is an indispensible asset to any developed nation. The U.S. epitomizes the classic example of ambiguous laws. For instance, the New York Times Co v. U.S., Mapp v. Ohio, and New Jersey v. TLO Supreme Court cases all favor freedoms over securities while Schenck v. U.S., New York Times co v. Sullivan, and Korematsu v. U.S. all favor security over freedom. There is no perfect balance, although the Mexican government comes fairly close to embodying it. Between the drug smuggling, human trafficking, and corrupt government orders, Mexico epitomizes the stability between security and freedom: the perfect place for a family vacation. Such is the unfortunate experience of the Maldonado family, whose mother was framed with drug smuggling and nearly sentenced to ten years in prison.
Yanira and Gary Maldonado, the proud parents of seven children, are naturalized U.S. citizens, visiting Mexico for an aunt’s funeral. Upon departing, they boarded a bus and travelled through continuous checkpoints, until they reached Hermosillo, where soldiers boarded the bus and interrogated everyone except for the Maldonados. The soldiers found 5.7 kilos, or about 12 pounds, of Marijuana under seats 39 (Yanira’s seat) and 42 (another passengers’s chair).
Initially, Greg was arrested, but later authorities supposedly switched stories and arrested Yanira instead. This was the first of many gaffes Mexican authorities had to answer to later that week. While Yanira was kept at a local jail, Greg was given an attorney, hired solely based on his ability to speak English. Unfortunately, that lawyer spoke with the prosecuting attorney, who suggested that Greg ought to free his wife by giving $3,500 to Mexican authorities. When Greg questioned these proposals, both anonymous sources told him “You know how it works in Mexico, right?” With corrupted legal consent, Greg realized he didn’t have a choice. Once he wired home to Arizona for the money, the authorities raised the price to $5,000, which Greg also agreed to reluctantly. By the time the money was transferred to Mexico to be delivered, Greg arrived at the jail where his wife was being held to find her missing. He was informed that she had been transferred to a women’s correctional facility further south in Nogales and that “the issue was no longer a matter of money”.
At this point, all matters were overturned to the Mexican consulate, headed by the same people who order the soldiers at the security checkpoints, where Yanira was arrested. The U.S. Consulate in Washington D.C. promised Greg that they were working closely with Mexican authorities to guarantee Yanira her right to a due process and a defense council. However, Greg never received any additional information about the conditions or possibilities for freedom from either nation. Ironically, both the Mexican and American Consulates refused to return phone calls regarding this matter.
Meanwhile, Yanira sat in jail, taking food and clothing from her family. The facility where she was located didn’t provide anything except the jail cell. As a devout Morman, she spent most of her days in prayer hoping to knock some sense into Mexican officials in charge of her release. She later described this time in jail as the most emotionally traumatizing event of her life.
Once a court was called to order and legal council was provided, four witnesses of the checkpoint arrest in Hermosillo came forward to testify. All claimed to have watched the Maldonados put their luggage underneath the bus and board it with only a purse, two blankets, and two water bottles in hand. This was later confirmed by a video surveillance camera. Other witnesses claimed to see a man who escaped the security check once the soldiers boarded the bus. In fact, many now accuse that man of attempting to smuggle the drugs. To top that off, security officials never showed up to the court date to testify, which led an unnamed Mexican official to tell CNN that it looked like Yanira was framed. Of the other dozen people who were on the bus, none came forward. Why? Two reasons: It’s a Mexican court and there is no compensation for testimony. These reasons alone should frighten many citizens into initiating change; however, human nature guilts all too many into taking bribes, even those with good intentions.
After Yanira’s release, she thanked the media coverage for making her case more public, which she thought was fully responsible for her quick release. Consequently, U.S. officials admitted to treating the case more high profile than they would have had just another American citizen been detained abroad. However, the media didn’t only expose her specific detainment, but a plethora of corrupt activities that incite desire for justice. When will justice be reached? Can it be reached? Or, is there already an omnipresent and precise imbalance of security and protection?
By Kaitlin Smalling
Often times, ubiquitous national boundaries truly represent rudimental distinctions worthy of international controversy. Such is the case with Amanda Knox, who has repeatedly been convicted and exonerated of the sexual assault and murder of roommate, Meredith Kercher, by Italy’s highest court. The case that defined the difference between American and Italian court systems and the danger of traveling abroad has ignited a new flame: the overturning of Knox’s 2011 acquittal.
In Perugia, Italy for studies in Italian and creative writing, 22-year-old Amanda Knox never expected to spend the next 5 years of her life there, nor did she expect to be sentenced to 26 years in prison. Unfortunately, on November 2nd 2007, she engaged in promiscuous activities while abusing marijuana. The following morning, her roommate was found with a slit throat and sexual wounds. Authorities immediately hauled Amanda, her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and Ivory Coast National, Rudy Guede off to court. After a year-long trial that had the world divided, all were found guilty.
After the conviction, the prosecution received accusations that the plaintiffs tampered with evidence, lied to the media, and took advantage of a non-citizen detainee. During Knox’s time in jail, questions regarding the prosecution’s ethic came up as her family consistently revealed information contradicting that of the Italian press. Unfortunately, the prosecution got to the media before Amanda’s lawyers could defend her and the lies that shaped the prosecution’s case largely molded public opinion against Amanda. For instance, an Italian Parliament member misquoted Amanda in a closed-door jail interview making it seem like she admitted satisfaction with the Court’s decision and had no objections to the legal system. However, both Amanda and her family have spoken warily of suicidal thoughts and being victimized in a foreign nation. A monumental piece of evidence that swayed the jury was also found to be faulty. Amanda was accused of purchasing bleach several hours after the murder and cleaning a bloodstained bathroom with it, yet neither a receipt nor fingerprints in the bathroom were ever found. The other infamous piece of evidence, Raffaele’s knife, which supposedly bore Amanda’s fingerprints, was a quarter-mile away from Amanda on the night of the murder.
This newly uncovered hullabaloo coerced the Court of Cassation to overturn the conviction and vindicate Amanda so that she could return to Seattle, where she stayed for a year and a half continuing her studies at the University of Washington. While there, she wrote a memoir titled “Waiting to be Heard” as she enjoyed her freedom. Multiple News Organizations like NBC, ABC, and CBS fought to have rights to the first interview with her after her original acquittal in 2011. Multiple media networks went to great unethical lengths to secure an interview with Amanda. Some babysat the Knox sisters, ages thirteen and sixteen, took them shopping and to cafes. Others offered private jet service for Amanda if she needed to return to Italy for a re-trial. However, ABC finally pulled through with an Interview from Dianne Sawyer on Primetime.
After the seeming nightmare was finally over, the Court of Cassation overturned her acquittal in late March 2013. The Kercher family was dissatisfied with the inability to blame someone for their daughter’s death and ordered a re-trial. Unlike in America, where citizens are protected against double-jeopardy, the Italian Court system allows prosecutors to appeal the case as many times as they see fit. Additionally, defendants are not required to take an oath that binds them to the truth, nor are juries sequestered during deliberations. No wonder jurors were subject to biased lies in the media in regards to evidence. The continuation of this trial has not only prolonged Amanda Knox’s nightmare, but has brought to mind what makes American justice inimitable. Just as any government, politic, or history course may emphasize, the critical importance of the Fifth Amendment, Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and rights of the accused in the Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court Case (1966) is not simply an American cliché, but an international necessity.