About Adotei Akwei

Adotei Akwei is Managing Director, Government Relations for Amnesty International USA. He rejoined AIUSA in September 2010 after serving as the Senior Policy Advisor for CARE USA. In this capacity, Adotei helped develop and implement advocacy on CARE USA's priority issues towards the US government. Prior to joining the Government Relations team in Washington DC, he served as the Regional Advocacy Advisor for CARE's Asia Regional Management Unit. As an RAA, Adotei supported CARE Country Offices in Asia in the development and implementation of national level advocacy strategies as well as with regional advocacy priorities. Before joining CARE, Adotei worked with Amnesty International USA for 11 years, first as the senior Advocacy Director for Africa and then later as Director of Campaigns. From 1992 to 1994 Adotei served as Africa Director for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, now Human Rights First. Prior to that he served as the Research and Human Rights Director for the American Committee on Africa and the Africa Fund. Adotei received his Master's degree in International Relations from the College of William and Mary and his Bachelor's degree from the State University of New York College at Purchase. He is born in Ghana, is married and has two sons.
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Education Under Attack in Nigeria

nigeria

Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation and for many observers, a barometer for political trends in West Africa, is no stranger to internal conflict.

Internal conflicts have threatened the country from the Biafran War in the eastern part of the country in the 1960s to turmoil in the Niger Delta that pitted the regime of the late head of State, Sanni Abacha and multinational oil companies against minority groups mobilized around environmental justice and a more equitable share on oil revenues.

While there have always been tensions and outbreaks of violence in the north, often along religious lines, the current crisis has a distinctly more ominous feeling and hopefully will focus international attention on the activities of the armed group Boko Haram, as well as the Nigerian military.

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Kenya’s Withdrawal From The International Criminal Court and Why It Matters

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto arrives on September 23, 2013 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto arrives on September 23, 2013 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

On September 5, the Kenyan parliament passed a motion to withdraw Kenya from the International Criminal Court. The decision came about days before Vice President Samoei Ruto faced trial at The Hague following his indictment for committing crimes against humanity in the bloody 2007 elections violence.

Last week, the African Union announced it would hold a special session in early October to discuss whether the AU members should withdraw from the ICC even as they announced plans to request that the hearings be transferred to Nairobi. The case has raised a critical and ongoing challenge to human rights in Africa:

Can political leaders in Africa be held to account for committing serious human rights abuses?

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How U.S. Representatives Are Defending Prisoners of Conscience

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

Last week, the Defending Freedoms project launched a Week of Action in which U.S. Representatives nationwide spoke out to highlight and give voice to political prisoners being held or detained around the world for expressing their views.

Members of Congress “adopted” prisoners of conscience and stood in solidarity with them with a commitment to highlight their cases and push for their release, as well as for an end to the human rights abuses they had been subjected to.

These individuals have been imprisoned because of who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. As a result, they are prevented from enjoying the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The Defending Freedoms project was kick-started by Representatives Wolf and McGovern adopting the initiative’s first two prisoners of conscience – Gao Zhisheng of China and Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab. In late 2012, Congress’ nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA to create the Defending Freedoms initiative as a way to raise awareness and support for human rights and religious freedom by focusing on human rights defenders, political prisoners, and those who have been unjustly imprisoned around the world.

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Department of State Human Rights Reports: The Resource That Washington Ignores

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to how the 2013 Human Rights Reports were the foundation of U.S. foreign policy and a statement to the world that the U.S. is watching to make sure that foreign governments protect the human rights of their citizens (Photo Credit: Mladen  Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to how the 2013 Human Rights Reports is the foundation of U.S. foreign policy and a statement to the world that the U.S. is watching to make sure foreign governments protect the human rights of their citizens (Photo Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

At long last, the 2013 country reports documenting global human rights trends has been released by the U.S. Department of State.

This year’s report, which was first produced during the Carter administration, is as important for what it does not say – or perhaps how it says it – as it is for what it says. In looking back at events in 2012, the report highlights several alarming trends, first what can only be described as a growing assault on civil society and human rights defenders.

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Mali, Algeria and the Arms Trade Treaty: A Parable for US Security?

© YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

© YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Could the NRA’s opposition to an arms trade treaty have consequences for US security?

There are many confusing messages coming from the National Rifle Association with regard to the effort to forge a global arms trade treaty. The NRA poo-poos arguments that point to the incredible human suffering the unregulated global arms trade is causing, including the thousands of children who are forced to become soldiers. The NRA also continues to deliberately and falsely claim that the treaty will undermine gun rights in the United States, in spite of the fact that the draft treaty text from the July United Nations conference reiterates that the treaty’s ambit is the arms trade between nations, not within them.

Underpinning the NRA’s view of the treaty and the world is that any effort to restrict small arms and conventional weapons is bad, as it undermines individual security, which can only be safeguarded by arming the “good guys.” If this is the case, then what does the NRA have to say about the recent events that transpired in Algeria and are still unfolding in Mali?

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Is the U.S. Congress Starting to Get Its Human Rights Mojo Back?

The late U.S. Representative Thomas Lantos

Late last week, Congress reclaimed some of its human rights mojo when the bi-partisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) announced its new Defending Freedoms Project. The TLHRC was established in 1983 by the late Rep. Thomas Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to have served in Congress.

The project kicked off with the TLHRC co-chairmen Frank R. Wolf adopting Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and James P. McGovern taking on the case of jailed Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.

The goal of this new partnership is to increase respect for religious freedom and other human rights around the world through a focus on individual cases of human rights defenders and those who have been unjustly imprisoned for exercising their human rights. Members of Congress will “adopt” at least one political prisoner, using their clout to highlight each case and push for an end to the human rights violations to which the highlighted individual is being subjected.

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Posted in USA

A Second Chance for U.S. Leadership on Arms Trade Treaty

Arms Trade Treaty Activists Demonstrate Outside United Nations Headquarters

Amadou Maiga from Mali , who has lost friends in conflict, speaks in front of a mock graveyard across from the United Nations (UN) which represents those killed by arms everyday around the world. The group Control Arms set up the campaign to help draw attention to the issues of deaths by guns and other armaments. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

On November 8, the international community took an important step and recommitted itself to trying to rein in the unregulated global trade in small arms and conventional weapons. With a strong show of consensus, 150 countries signed on to a resolution that will restart negotiations in March 2013. There were no votes cast in opposition.

With the negotiations now scheduled, President Obama and his administration are presented with another chance to show leadership on the global stage and to answer the question of who actually drives U.S. foreign policy: the U.S. gun lobby or the President. On no other issue is this question as under scrutiny as the ATT, coming to a head when the U.S. delegation pulled a July surprise and torpedoed the negotiations in the last hours of the conference.

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Ending the Use of Child Soldiers: One Step Forward

child soldiers DRC congo

Child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. © Amnesty International

In a victory for children in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC government recentlysigned a plan of action with the UN to eliminate the recruitment and use of child soldiers in their military forces, including a first-of-its-kind plan for protecting children from sexual violence.

This historic step comes after several years in which the Government of the DRC had part of its US military aid withheld under the landmark Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA). Moving forward, it is imperative that the world and the United States keep a close watch to ensure there is a robust implementation of the national action plan including, for example thorough screening processes to prevent child soldiers recruited into the M23 rebel forces from joining the DRC military. It is arguable that given the links between M23 and the government of Rwanda restrictions on US aid should also considered for Kigali.  Whether there is effective pressure on Rwanda and M23 or not, the decision to grant the DRC a partial waiver, allowing some military assistance to go forward must be leveraged to keep the government of President Kabila on track with further incentives tied to specific benchmarks.

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2012 Elections: Will The Candidates Bother To Address Human Rights?

It is debatable whether the term human rights has been heard more the 5 times in the course of the 2012 elections. When it has been uttered, the candidates who said it quickly moved on to other issues or submerged it in a list of foreign policy crises. One is left to wonder if human rights are still a priority, let alone a pillar of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.

The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil and challenges to the respect and promotion of human rights and arguably a vacuum of leadership in support of those principles domestically and internationally.

One need only look at the headlines in the news to see examples of where the human rights analysis is missing.

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