Wednesday, April 14, 2010

US government 'abused rights' of Hurricane Katrina victims

US government 'abused rights' of Hurricane Katrina victims

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The US government and states have violated the human rights of victims of Hurricane Katrina, Amnesty International claimed today.

Its report Un-Natural Disaster says housing, health and policing policies have stopped poor communities rebuilding and returning to their homes since the 2005 hurricane, in which about 1,800 people died.

The White House denied the claims and Louisiana and Mississippi officials said they had gone to great lengths to help people recover from Katrina.

In the US a former New Orleans policeman faces eight years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice over a police cover-up during the hurricane.

Michael Hunter, 33, told federal authorities he saw a fellow officer shoot and kick unarmed, wounded civilians on a bridge in Katrina's aftermath.

Hunter's account of the shootings contradicts a police report that said civilians shot at officers on Danziger Bridge before the police opened fire, killing two people and wounding four others.

Hunter told a court he shouted “cease fire” after a sergeant with an assault rifle and other officers opened fire on a group of civilians who took cover behind a concrete barrier on the bridge.

“(The sergeant) suddenly leaned over the concrete barrier, held out his assault rifle, and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at the civilians lying wounded on the ground,” a court filing says. “The civilians were not trying to escape and were not doing anything that could be perceived as a threat.”

Two people were killed, 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who was mentally disabled. Hunter's statement said an officer shot Mr Madison in the back with a shotgun.

US District Judge Sarah Vance said Hunter participated in a “blatant and systematic perversion of justice” and shouldn't be seen as a “hero” for taking responsibility. He will be sentenced on June 30.

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