In the days surrounding Human Rights Day on December 10, I will be writing letters to people around the world – most of whom I have never met. As my messages begin to arrive in places like Chicago, Brasilia, Tel Aviv and Beijing, they will be joined by hundreds and thousands more. Together, we will speak with one voice to demand justice, cry for change and inspire hope. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
More than one hundred men and women of color were tortured by Chicago police commander Jon Burge between 1972 and 1991 – and they are still calling for justice.
As Amnesty International’s Stop Torture Campaign gains momentum across the globe, their stories make it clear that, as U.S. based activists, our work must begin in our own backyard. Decades of brutality tore apart Chicago torture survivors’ families and communities and they have been denied the reparations needed to make them whole.
Darrell Cannon was tortured by three Chicago Police Department detectives at a remote site on Chicago’s South Side. Over course of a day, they pressed a cattle prod to his testicles and put it into his mouth. The officers attempted to lift him off the ground by handcuffs secured behind his back, contorting his upper body. They repeatedly made him believe that they had loaded a shotgun and rammed in into his mouth, breaking his tooth.
“These are all things they enjoyed doing,” Darrell Cannon told Amnesty International, his voice cracking.
He spent 24 years in prison on the basis of a coerced confession that was tortured out of him – ten of those years suffering further degradation in solitary confinement at Tamms Supermax prison.
Right now, a man named Albert Woodfox is sitting in a concrete and steel cage in a prison near the northernmost edge of the State of Louisiana. His cell is barely the size of a parking space, and he leaves it for a scant hour each day. When Albert awoke yesterday morning, it was to begin the first day of his forty-second year in solitary confinement.
She saved lives. So why does Russia want to punish Elena Klimova?
Because she created a safe space for LGBTI teens in a country rife with homophobia.
Elena is a journalist and founder of Children 404, a popular online resource that supports LGBTI teens in Russia. It’s a space for teenagers to share their stories, get support and obtain advice from experienced psychologists.
Elena’s Children 404 has prevented teenagers from committing suicide and running away from home. She’s easing their isolation and making their world a little better, right?
Not according to Russian authorities. Russian authorities are going to absurd lengths to punish people and defenders of LGBTI human rights. They want to shut Children 404 down, and have charged Elena with “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”
This could be the end of Albert Woodfox’s 40-year plus prison nightmare, if you act now.
On Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hold a hearing to determine Albert’s fate.
Will they finally act on the 2013 ruling that overturned his conviction and set him free, or shut the door and send him back to another unthinkable year in solitary confinement?
The imprisoned members of Pussy Riot have been freed! Today, Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alyokhinam of the Russian feminist punk group, were officially released in compliance with a new amnesty bill approved by the Russian parliament.
This is great news (though it does not end the struggle for human rights in Russia)!
From the early days following the arrests of three Pussy Riot members (Nadya, Masha and a third member, Ekaterina “Katya” Samutsevich) for performing a protest song at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Amnesty International has been involved in the effort to unconditionally free the punk rockers!
Early yesterday morning, a mere three days after he was released from prison, iconic “Angola 3” member Herman Wallace died – a free man.
My heart is heavy. I am beyond grateful that Herman passed surrounded by loved ones after surviving a nightmare of more than 41 years in cruel, inhuman and degrading solitary confinement. I am unspeakably angry that the State of Louisiana’s vindictive cruelty has not let up, even at Herman’s final breath. I am incredulous that a step toward justice has taken this long.
Herman Wallace was first placed in solitary in 1972, after prison guard Brent Miller was murdered at Angola prison. He was convicted of the murder two years later, after a trial riddled with legal flaws and inconsistencies. On October 1, a federal judge overturned Herman’s conviction, ordering the state to immediately release him. Louisiana authorities tried desperately to keep Herman behind bars, appealing against the court order, even as an ambulance waited outside Elayn Hunt correctional center.
Yesterday, a court in the Russian region of Perm refused to grant parole to Maria “Masha” Alyokhina more than 16 months after she was arrested for a “Punk Prayer” protest with feminist punk group Pussy Riot.
This decision is further confirmation of the authorities’ determination to stifle freedom of expression in Russia. For Masha, it is yet another injustice to add to the growing list that she and fellow Pussy Riot member Nadezdha “Nadya” Tolokonnikova have faced since their February 2012 performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.