“The America I Believe In”: 3 Hopes for this July 4th

Amnesty International posterI see this poster every day in the main hallway of our Amnesty International office: it depicts the Statue of Liberty and reads: “The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.

It’s aspirational. And in too many ways, it’s proven the opposite of true. The United States is leading the world in perversely innovative human rights abuses, such as unlawful drone strikes and mass surveillance tapping into the Internet’s backbone.

And when it’s the US rather than another country committing human right abuses, there are additional consequences: the U.S. sets dangerous precedents for other nations to follow, while providing abusive regimes a ready-made excuse to flout their human rights obligations.

Still, I think there’s hope. July 4th is a celebration not just of U.S. nationhood, but of the country’s ideals and the best parts of its history. It’s those that I think of, when I hope for this:

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10 Questions about the UK Spying on Amnesty International

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Yesterday, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal informed Amnesty International that British intelligence agency GCHQ had spied on the human rights organization by intercepting and accessing its email communications. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Albert Woodfox to Kalief Browder: The Devastation of Solitary Confinement

A cell in the Closed Cell Restricted (isolation) unit in Angola prison in Louisiana. (Credit: Louisiana State Archives)

A cell in the isolation unit in Angola prison in Louisiana. (Credit: Louisiana State Archives)

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has specifically condemned Woodfox’s treatment as torture and called on the United States to eliminate the use of prolonged isolation. Albert’s case has returned to the spotlight in the past month because he is no longer a convicted man – a federal judge ordered his unconditional release in early June, two years after his conviction had been overturned for a third time (a last-minute appeal kept him behind bars).

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Human Rights Victory! Swaziland Prisoners of Conscience Freed!

Thulani Maseko, appears in court in the traditional animal skin garb of a Zulu warrior, in Mbabane, Swaziland.  Maseko delivered a blistering attack on the Swazi judiciary and political system in a trial that has focused fresh attention on human rights issues in a country who's authoritarian system gets little scrutiny in international forums because of the country's small size and strategic insignificance.

Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images

Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.

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My First Week of Freedom After 10 Years in a Nigerian Jail

Moses Akatugba

By Moses Akatugba, Nigeria

When I called my mother from prison to tell her I’d been pardoned after 10 years in jail, she fainted. I was told they had to pour water on her to revive her. Later, when she saw me for the first time after all those years in jail, she grabbed me and held me so tight. She wouldn’t let go for almost 15 minutes. The whole time she had tears of joy streaming from her eyes. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Are Justices Breyer and Ginsberg Ready to Call It Quits on the Death Penalty?

Texas

On Monday the Supreme Court issued their decision in Glossip v. Gross, voting 5-4 to allow Oklahoma to continue to use midazolam in their lethal injection procedure. The Court ruled that the petitioners failed to provide an alternative method, and deferred to the District Court’s ruling that midazolam is likely to render a person unable to feel pain during the execution.

The case and the Court’s decision are narrow: they only examined the question of one particular drug used by some states in lethal injections. That means the Court did not address the bigger question of the death penalty itself and its many inherent flaws. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

This Is What Happens When Thousands Stand Up to Stop Torture

The displays of solidarity, action and impact from Amnesty International activists in honor of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture will amaze you.

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6 Lies That Are Told on June 26

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Every year on June 26th, we stand with victims and survivors of torture for a day of action that is marked globally. Often, the U.S. president issues a statement or makes a speech, pledging support for the eradication of torture.

This year, as we witness evasion and inaction from the Justice Department about its failure to hold anyone accountable for CIA torture, we can’t let it pass: there are too many holes, too many hypocrisies, and too many lies in these U.S. government commitments. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

They are Black, They are Poor, and They are Stateless

Tens of thousands of people of Haitian descent have been deprived of their Dominican nationality and are now at risk of being expelled from their home country.

Tens of thousands of people of Haitian descent have been deprived of their Dominican nationality and are now at risk of being expelled from their home country.

Marselha: Do you have any questions for me?
Woman: Can you help me get this child a birth certificate?
Marselha: Unfortunately I cannot, but I can tell your story.

I heard that question some dozen times in the interval of less than three days as I interviewed mothers whose children were born and raised in the Dominican Republic and were refused their birth certificates.

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Victory: Marriage equality is a right!

SCOTUSWeb

“When we got together, we didn’t think about getting married – we couldn’t really imagine that would ever be possible.”

Last weekend, I went back to North Carolina to witness the wedding of my dear friends, Mark and Scott. Today, as we rejoice in the amazing news from the U.S. Supreme Court – a tremendous victory for marriage equality and for the human rights of all people – I can’t help but think back to Mark’s words, shared deep from the heart before the 90 or so friends and family gathered to celebrate with them. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST