Making for a Just World

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By Robert Albanese, Senior Writer/Editor at Rhode Island School of Design Media Group, Photos by Nicholas Mrnarevic / Art For Amnesty

In Canvases of Courage, a documentary about artists working to advance global human rights, Jérôme Lagarrigue 96 IL (above) speaks about how his own experience surviving a hate crime in the 1980s inspired him to advocate for others through his art. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

CIA Torture Just Got One Step Closer to Facing Accountability

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Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

“You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” I keep a poster up in my office with this quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it perfectly summarizes Amnesty International’s work of pushing back against the human rights abuses carried out in the name of national security. That’s because we’re fighting against fear and hate, which are powerful, intimidating adversaries. But recent victories have reminded me that there’s something stronger than fear and hate, and that our fight is worthwhile. We may feel sometimes as if human rights rarely win – but this time, they did. And they won big. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Leila and Mahamadi: Five Days for the Sheroes of Burkina Faso

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Photographer Leila Alaoui, who was killed in the Al Qaeda attack in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, on Friday 15 January 2016. Mahamadi Ouédraogo her driver was also killed in the attack.

Monday 11 January – two people meet at Ouagadougou International Airport and their destinies become immediately and eternally entwined.

She – Leila Alaoui, 33, photographer, arriving on an early evening flight from Paris. She will be spending the next nine days in Burkina Faso photographing courageous girls and women for our 8 March ‘sheroes’ exhibition.

He – Mahamadi Ouedraogo, 42, driver and guide, coming to fetch Leila from the airport. He will be spending the next nine days accompanying her all over the country and assisting with the photo mission. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Sheroes: On the Frontline of the Struggle for Sexual Health and Rights in Burkina Faso

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Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

The statistics tell a sobering tale. Burkina Faso has the 7th highest rate of child marriage in the world. More than half of all women were married before the age of 18 and 10% before age 15. Some girls as young as 11 are forced into marriage. Burkina Faso also has one of the world’s lowest rates of contraceptive use – only 17% of women. Many are denied contraception or use it in secret, out of fear of their husbands or in-laws.

The end result is that by the time they are 19 years old, most girls are married, and nearly half of them are already mothers. They are raising children when they are still children themselves, in a country with one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world.

But within this bleak picture are spots of light, like candles in a dark room, moments of grace in the midst of a battlefield. These are the people – the women and girls – whose stories illuminate a landscape dominated by such stark realities. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

President Obama Must Appoint ATF Director to Stop the Flow of Illegal Guns

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US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms.   AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, President Obama unveiled a number of actions his administration will take to help curb the increasing number of gun violence incidents in the United States. Included in those actions are new guidelines to strengthen background checks, provide increased access to mental health care, explore gun safety technology and implement more aggressive enforcement of current laws.

One of the agencies tasked with helping to enforce those laws is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). As a bureau within the Department of Justice, the ATF plays a key role in stopping the illegal use and trafficking of firearms. This is an issue that doesn’t just impact people in the United States but also individuals around the world; for example, 70 percent of the more than 104,850 guns seized by Mexican authorities from 2009-2014 can be traced back to the United States. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Are U.S. weapons being used to kill Yemeni civilians?

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Watch Amnesty International USA’s Middle East North Africa Advocacy Director, Sunjeev Bery on CNN here.

Saudi Arabia-led coalition continue to indiscriminately bomb and kill civilians in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia-led coalition continue to indiscriminately bomb and kill civilians in Yemen.

It has been over a year since an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against the Huthi armed group in Yemen sparking a full-blown armed conflict.

Over the following year, the conflict has spread and fighting has engulfed the entire country. Horrific human rights abuses, as well as war crimes, are being committed throughout the country causing unbearable suffering for civilians. Watch Sunjeev Bery, Advocacy Director for the Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA, discuss Yemen’s war and how the US-Saudi alliance makes it worse.

If We Fail Our Environment, We Fail to Protect Our Human Rights

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“If we fail our environment, we fail to protect our human rights.” -Ban Ki-moon

Human rights, dignity, livelihood, health and wellbeing are directly correlated with the health of the environment. We have seen time and time again that corporate actions often have devastating effects on the human rights of individuals around the world. From the Bhopal chemical disaster to the oil spills in the Niger Delta, failures to protect our environment impact the lives of millions and have ongoing and devastating consequences for future generations. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Torture Is Not the Answer

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Still from 'Waiting For The Guards ' shows simulated torture by the CIA

Still from ‘Waiting For The Guards ‘ shows simulated torture by the CIA

Too little, and much too late. CIA Director John Brennan this week declared that the CIA would refuse to engage in waterboarding in the future, even if ordered to do so.

This was the latest in a recent string of headline-grabbing proclamations from current and former U.S. officials insisting that, if faced with the dilemma between following orders or rejecting torture, they would reject torture.

As welcome as these promises are, they ring hollow. That’s because the same U.S. intelligence community was already faced with that exact dilemma, and they got it wrong. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Don’t Let California Jumpstart Executions

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A protester holds a sign up during an anti-death penalty protest on June 18,2001 in Santa Ana, CA. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

David McNew/Getty Images

Officials at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are doing everything they can to jumpstart executions after over a decade without them—and with the largest death row in the country, they could fast track dozens of cases for execution.

That’s dozens of humans killed at the hands of the state. We can help stop them since the CDCR is required by law to listen to us!

Tell them it’s time to end the death penalty once and for all! SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is the U.S. State Department Understating Human Rights Abuses?

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Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Following last week’s release of the 2016 Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Amnesty International USA conducted a review of the reports and offered an analysis of the reports.

The annual, Congressionally-mandated reports are meant to highlight abuses such as human rights defenders being killed, detained or hounded in to exile, along with draconian restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, often imposed in the name of national security.

Unfortunately, this year’s report continues the practice of using diplomatic language to understate human rights violations. The report also continues to bury some cases of abuse by failing to refer to them in the summary section of the report. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST