About Justin Mazzola

Justin Mazzola is an attorney and Researcher with Amnesty International USA. He has worked on issues related to immigration, national security and criminal justice for the organization.
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#DearObama: Prioritize Fair and Humane Immigration Reform in Your State of the Union

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Mr. President,

if you really care about immigrants’ rights, in your State of the Union, can you explain why:

  • Since 2001, immigration detention in the United States has more than doubled from just over 200,000 annually under President Bush to 478,000 in 2012, an all-time high?[i]
  • Your administration has deported an average of 390,000 immigrants a year since 2009, with a record 409,000 deportations in 2012?[ii]
  • Your administration deported its 2 millionth immigrant in 2014, while hundreds of thousands of families have been separated during the past six years?

This is a pace of deportation and exposure to abuse that cannot continue.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Racial Profiling: The Devil is in the Details…or the Footnotes.

Arizona Activists Hold Vigil To Protest New Immigration Law At White House

On December 8, 2014, the Department of Justice released its revised “Guidance on the Use of Race” by law enforcement officials.  Just in time for Human Rights Day (and you thought the feds only cared about the Constitution).

The revised guidance expanded the classes protected from discriminatory policing from just race and ethnicity to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and religion. It not only covers federal law enforcement officers performing federal law enforcement activities, including those related to national security and intelligence, but also local and state law enforcement officers  who are participating in federal law enforcement task forces.  While not providing a private right of action, it does require each agency to collect data on complaints made under the guidelines. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Eric Garner Case Highlights Urgent Need to Review US Policing Practices

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Just  over a week after a  grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a grand jury in Staten Island, New York has decided not to indict the officer responsible for the choking death of Eric Garner, despite the existence of a video capturing the incident that took place on July 17, 2014. In the process of apprehending Garner, the officer placed Garner in a chokehold which an autopsy determined compressed his neck and restricted his chest to the point of asphyxiation.  These are just two of many cases we have seen this year where black men are dying at the hands of police officers around the country.

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Leonard Peltier, 38 Years A Detainee: How Did We Get Here?

Amnesty has serious concerns about the fairness of Leonard Peltier's (above) trial (Photo Credit: Taro Yamasaki).

Amnesty has serious concerns about the fairness of Leonard Peltier’s (above) trial (Photo Credit: Taro Yamasaki).

February 6th marked the 38th anniversary of the arrest of Anishinabe-Lokota Native American, Leonard Peltier. Amnesty International marked this date, as did many others in the U.S. and around the world.

Leonard Peltier was arrested 38 years ago in connection with the murders of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, during a confrontation involving American Indian Movement (AIM) members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in June 1975. While he admits to having been present during the incident, Leonard Peltier, who in 1977 was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the murders, has always denied killing the agents as alleged by the prosecution at his trial.

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Chelsea Manning: Which One Doesn’t Belong?

It seems clear Manning’s sentence serves only one purpose: to make an example of a soldier who only intended to show the true costs of war (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

It seems clear Manning’s sentence serves only one purpose: to make an example of a soldier who only intended to show the true costs of war (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

Let’s all take a trip down memory lane to our Sesame Street days and engage in the following exercise of “Which One Doesn’t Belong”:

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Bradley Manning Verdict: Hysteria Over Leakers, Impunity for Human Rights Violators

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning arrives at a U.S. military court facility to hear his sentence in his trial at Fort Meade, Maryland on August 21, 2013 (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning arrives at a U.S. military court facility to hear his sentence in his trial at Fort Meade, Maryland on August 21, 2013 (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

UPDATE: It was reported on August 22 that Pfc. Manning is now publicly identifying as Chelsea Manning and requests that she be identified as such from now on. Amnesty International will now refer to her as Chelsea Manning out of respect for her wishes.

It has been 1,182 days since Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq for releasing classified information to Wikileaks. This morning, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison, as well as received a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of his military pay, and dishonorable discharge.

He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

He will get credit for those more than 3 years of pre-trial confinement, including 112 days for being unlawfully punished by harsh conditions at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps brig – a literal drop in the bucket compared to the enormous sentence he is facing.

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Bradley Manning Verdict: Double Standards and Misplaced Priorities

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted from court (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted from court (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

It has been a more than three years since the initial leaks of classified information were posted on Wikileaks. Bradley Manning has faced many issues during that three year span – not the least of which being the unnecessarily harsh conditions of his confinement when held in a brig in Quantico – and he will continue to face many more for the foreseeable future.

However, one issue has stood out above all others: being charged and possibly convicted for aiding the enemy, for releasing classified information to Wikileaks – information that Manning reasonably believed demonstrated human rights violations and potential war crimes by the U.S. government.

The charge seemed like a stretch from the get-go. But after hearing the evidence, the prosecution presented to support such a charge, it became painfully obvious that the government was trying to make an example of Bradley Manning: regardless of your motives, if you leak government information you will pay with your life, literally.

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Good News: U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Raises Shaker Aamer With President Obama

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer is a U.K. resident who has been held in U.S. custody since 2001 – originally detained in notorious detention facilities at the Bagram and Kandahar Air Force bases in Afghanistan before being transferred in February 2002 to Guantanamo Bay. He was allegedly tortured – both in Afghanistan and during his time at Guantanamo – and has now been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, joining more than 100 other detainees at the facility who are also on strike.

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian, Shaker stated that every day at Guantanamo is torture. He finished the piece with this poignant point: “I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. But if it is God’s will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.”

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Do You Know Who is Detained at Guantanamo Bay?

guantanamoOn May 23, 2013, President Obama stated that history will cast a harsh judgment on the legacy of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and those who fail to end it. Unfortunately, the current reality is that dozens of men are detained in Guantanamo despite being cleared for transfer. Here are just a few:

Yusef Abbas, Hajiakbar Abdulghupur, and Saidullah Khalik – Detained in Guantanamo for 10 years and 11 months. The three men are ethnic Uyghurs from China. They were arrested in Pakistan in late 2001. After they were given over to U.S. forces, they were transferred to Guantanamo in 2002. In 2008, they, along with 14 other Uyghurs, successfully filed writs of Habeas Corpus. While all the other Uyghur held at Guantanamo have been transferred, these three remain detained.

Shaker Aamer - Detained for 11 years and 4 months. Originally from Saudi Arabia, he was arrested in Afghanistan, where he was living with his family, in 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo in February, 2002. Under President Bush he was cleared for transfer. Despite the U.K. government’s requests he be transferred to the U.K., Shaker Aamer remains in Guantanamo.

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