The Honorable Janet Reno
U.S. Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20350
Fax No.: 202-514-4371
By Mail and Fax
Dear Ms. Reno:
I am writing to protest the decision by the Bureau of Prisons canceling all visitation rights for Philip Berrigan, who is currently incarcerated at FCI Petersburg, Virginia for his Prince of Peace Plowshares Act of Conscience against a nuclear-capable Aegis Cruiser in Maine. One of the judges involved in that case publicly called Phil Berrigan "the moral conscience of our generation." My sentiments exactly.
Phil Berrigan was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the distinguished Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, one of the Co-Founders of the Peace People Movement in Northern Ireland. Ms. Maguire cited Phil Berrigan and his brother Father Dan Berrigan, S.J., for a lifetime of dedication to the cause of promoting peace, justice and human rights around the world, and especially here in the United States of America. Ms. Maguire decided to meet personally with her Nobel Peace Prize Nominee at FCI Petersburg in order to offer her personal support to Phil Berrigan for his continuing work for peace. After the meeting was over, and in light of the impending bombing of Iraq by the United States, Ms. Maguire decided to stage a protest for peace by refusing to leave the prison. According to Ms.Maguire's Statement, a copy of which is attached to this letter, Phil Berrigan had nothing to do with Ms. Maguire's peaceful protest. I have never had any reason to doubt the word of the world-renowned Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire.
Ms. Maguire was held overnight in Richmond City Jail, and brought before a judge the next afternoon. The Prosecutor recommended that all charges against her be dropped and the Judge immediately released her. Nevertheless, Phil Berrigan was punished because of Mairead Corrigan Maguire's peaceful, non-violent and non-criminal protest against an impending war, which was protected activity under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Bureau of Prison's vicarious punishment of Phil Berrigan constitutes cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of his rights under international human rights laws and treaties to which the United States government is a party.
In particular, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states quite clearly: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks." The Bureau of Prisons has arbitrarily interfered with Phil Berrigan's family by terminating their visitation rights for one year because of Mairead Corrigan Maguire's peaceful, non-violent, non-criminal protest against an impending war. I should point out that the United States government has been in the vanguard of the international movement maintaining that basic provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights such as Article 12 constitute customary international law.
Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has now been codified in Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States Government is now a contracting party. Covenant Article 17 provides as follows:"1.No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.2.Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." By terminating Phil Berrigan's visitation rights with his family for the act of Ms.Maguire, the Bureau of Prisons has arbitrarily interfered with his family. Moreover, as Attorney General of the United States of America, you are
obligated to protect Phil Berrigan and his family from such arbitrary interference by the Bureau of Prisons that falls under your domain. I should point out that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 17 thereof is a treaty to which the United States Government is a contracting party and therefore "the supreme Law of the Land" under Article VI of the United States Constitution, the so-called Supremacy Clause. For these reasons, I ask you to order the immediate restoration of Phil Berrigan's right to visit with his family.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Yours very truly,
Francis A. Boyle
Professor of International Law
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, Illinois 618200
Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA (1988-92)
cc: Director, U.S. Bureau of Prisons
520 First Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
PO Box 1000
Petersburg VA 23804-1000
By Mail and Fax