The announcement that a $1 million bounty has been
placed on the head of exiled freedom fighter Assata Shakur sends
a clear, unmistakable message that the U.S. government will stop
at nothing to perpetuate the systemic denial of the most basic
human rights of African people born and/or residing in the Americas.
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL)
demands that the U.S. government immediately withdraw the bounty
offer, and permanently cease its pursuit of Assata Shakur as such
is both illegal and unjustifiable under international human rights
NCBL takes the ongoing attacks on Assata Shakur
personally. NCBL lawyers served on Shakur’s legal team during
her trial on charges that she killed a New Jersey State Trooper.
When NCBL pioneer Lennox Hinds dared to tell the truth about the
racist nature of the trial proceedings, bar officials brought
disciplinary charges against him. The travesty of the prosecution
and ongoing persecution of Shakur is demonstrated best by Shakur’s
account of the events in question. In 1998, she stated:
“...On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata
Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for
a ‘faulty tail light.’ Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to
determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car.
State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and
began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a
car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became ‘suspicious.’
He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our
hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them.
I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came
from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was
shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once
again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper
Werner Foerster was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted
that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey
felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik
Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in
the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt
Notwithstanding the fact that defense lawyers presented objective
medical and other evidence that substantiated Shakur’s account
of the events in question, she was nevertheless convicted by
an all-white jury. Her sentence was life imprisonment plus 33
years. She escaped from prison, and has lived in exile in Cuba
since 1979. The attempts by New Jersey and Federal officials
to capture her have been relentless since that time.
Assata Shakur’s failure to find justice within the
U.S. system compels NCBL to analyze her circumstances according
to international law standards. The Universal Declaration of Human
Rights provides in various of its Articles that everyone is entitled
to: freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and exile; freedom
from torture, and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment; the
right to a presumption of innocence at trial; and the right to
seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Assata Shakur has been flagrantly and continuously denied each
of these rights and others by a U.S. government that, as Shakur
herself has observed, is hellbent on making an example of
her in much the same way slave owners of an earlier era hunted
down runaway Africans, and returned them to the plantation for
purposes of public torture.
NCBL will direct inquiries to officials involved
in this matter, and otherwise begin an investigation into the
facts and circumstances that led to these events. NCBL will,
according to its obligation to the African World, make public
all of its findings.
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