About Sunjeev Bery

Sunjeev Bery serves as Advocacy Director for Middle East North Africa issues at Amnesty International USA. He lobbies US officials, diplomats, and officeholders regarding human rights concerns across the MENA region. His commentaries on US foreign policy and human rights have appeared in a range of U.S. newspapers and publications. Previously, Sanjeev served as a regional director for the American Civil Liberties Union, where his work included advocacy on post-9/11 security policies. He has also served as a public interest lobbyist on student financial aid issues in Washington DC and as a fundraiser for environmental and human rights organizations. Sanjeev holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was a Harvard Public Service Fellow. He is a recipient of the 2007 Asian Law Alliance Community Impact Award and has received commendations from the California State Senate and Assembly for his human rights advocacy.
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6 Steps For Syria We Want to Hear in Obama’s Speech Tonight

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Amid a swirl of political developments, President Obama is set to deliver a national televised speech on Syria at 9:00 p.m. EST tonight. The speech was originally expected to be an effort by the White House to argue for a U.S. military strike targeting Syria. But now there’s talk of U.N. Security Council proposals to remove Syria’s chemical weapons from the country, for presumed eventual destruction. And against a backdrop of growing domestic opposition to a U.S. military strike, the U.S. government is changing its political posture in response.

Given the rapidly shifting geopolitical landscape, it is difficult to know for sure what President Obama will say in a few short hours. Indeed, it’s likely that White House advisers are themselves still editing the President’s script as you read this.

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BREAKING: Pro-Morsi Demonstration Dispersed in Cairo, Amnesty Researchers On the Ground

An unknown number of pro-Morsi protesters were killed in Egypt's capital today as Egyptian Security Forces undertook a planned operation to clear Morsi supporters from two sit-in demonstrations in Cairo where they have camped for over one month (Photo Credit: Ed Giles/Getty Images).

An unknown number of pro-Morsi protesters were killed in Cairo today as security forces undertook a planned operation to clear Morsi supporters from two sit-in demonstrations  (Photo Credit: Ed Giles/Getty Images).

Promises by the authorities to use lethal methods only as a last resort to disperse protesters appear to have been broken. All too often in the past, Egyptian security forces have used excessive force against demonstrators with catastrophic consequences.

Amnesty International working on the ground to verify any abuses that may have been carried out after a pro-Morsi sit-in was dispersed in Cairo today. We also stress Egyptian security forces must take urgent steps to avoid further bloodshed.

Access to the main hospital in the area near the sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya is also reported to be restricted.

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“The World Has Forgotten Us”: Syrian Mother Speaks

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A child looks on next to a woman at a Syrian refugee camp 5 km from Diyarbakir after a snowfall. This past winter, refugees faced further misery due to increasing shortages of supplies, low temperatures and snowfall (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).

On a recent visit to a camp near Atmeh, just inside Syria near the Turkish border, some 21,000 people were sheltering amid hellish conditions.

Heavy rain leaked into the tents and had turned the clay soil into thick slippery mud; raw sewage flowed between the tents. There wasn’t enough food and little medical aid.

Children and families have borne the brunt of the bloodshed in Syria. Most at risk are those fleeing the violence – refugees and the displaced still trapped within Syria, for whom the global community is still not doing enough.

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What is the UN Saying on Syria?

Sunjeev Bery on Sky News Arabia

Sunjeev Bery on Sky News Arabia

Yesterday, I joined the team at Sky News Arabia for a live discussion of the latest report on Syria by an independent UN panel. Special thanks to Sky News producer Arwa Sawan, reporter Joseph Khawly, and anchor Amer Abdel Aziz for giving Amnesty International USA an opportunity to share our analysis of the grave human rights situation.

The report (PDF) is a catalog of violence, suffering, and geopolitical developments, focusing on events between January 15th and May 15th of this year. It was produced by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.

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One Palestinian Village Obama Should Visit

Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Yesterday morning, US President Barack Obama arrived in Israel to much fanfare.  He has said that he has come to listen.  One place he should start is the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

I visited Nabi Saleh last week as part of an Amnesty International research mission to the West Bank.  The village sits atop a hill, facing the illegal Israeli settlement Halamish.  The settlers of Halamish, like so many other Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), are backed by the lethal force of the Israeli army.

For protesting against the settlement, the residents of Nabi Saleh have paid a heavy price.  I spoke with village resident Bassem Tamimi, a man who Amnesty International previously declared a prisoner of conscience when he was imprisoned by Israel for involvement in peaceful protests.  During Bassem’s most recent jail term, his brother-in-law Rushdi Tamimi, 31, was shot by Israeli soldiers at another protest in November 2012 and died days later in a hospital.  In December 2011, another member of the village, Mustafa Tamimi, died after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired at close range from an Israeli military jeep.

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This Weekend in Bahrain: Will U.S. Officials Stand Up for Freedom?

Nabeel Rajab

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab repeatedly has been targeted and abused by the authorities for his peaceful activism.

In the island nation of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, a man by the name of Nabeel Rajab is sitting in jail for the “crime” of peaceful protest. But the government that has imprisoned him is a U.S. military ally, and the Obama Administration has done little to push for his release. When U.S. officials arrive in Bahrain this weekend for a global conference, will they finally change course?

Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and this fact has everything to do with his three year prison sentence. That’s why Amnesty International members worldwide are calling for his freedom, as part of our global “Write for Rights” campaign.

Like Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the region, Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family has imprisoned many people who have dared to criticize the government. And while the U.S. government has issued mild statements of concern along the way, the Obama Administration has fundamentally failed to hold its repressive military ally accountable.

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A Critic Gets it Wrong on Amnesty International and Libya

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Libyan protesters in Benghazi in 2011 ©Sniperphoto Agency/Demotix

In an article published by The Huffington Post and Counterpunch, author Dan Kovalik misrepresents Amnesty International’s position regarding Libya and the 2011 NATO air strikes campaign.

Without offering any supporting evidence, Kovalik falsely claims in the article “Libya and the West’s Human Rights Hypocrisy” that Amnesty International “believed NATO military action would bring about the flourishing of human rights in Libya.”   Amnesty International never made such an assertion, nor did we take a position in support of NATO airstrikes.

Amnesty International generally takes no position on the use of armed force or on military interventions in armed conflict, other than to demand that all parties respect international human rights and humanitarian law.  We are consistent in our call that all governments respect human rights, no matter what the type or form of government is.

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Gaza Blockade: Still Operational, Still Violating Human Rights

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One of our postcard actions in front of the White house

This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House.  The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.

The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip.  The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.

As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment.  Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid.  While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.

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Send a Tweet, Free a Prisoner

Just one week after a global Twitter campaign by Amnesty International, Palestinian Waleed Hanatsheh walked free from an Israeli prison.  Israeli officials had jailed him without charge or trial for periods totaling some 5 years of his life.  But after facing the public spotlight, those same Israeli officials let Hanatsheh go home.

In this online campaign, Amnesty International members and staff targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (@IsraeliPM), the Israeli Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson), and the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC (@IsraelinUSA):

Since the 1960s, Amnesty International members have been using whatever form of communication it takes to reach governments, politicians, corporations and other targets. From mailing letters to prison cells (yes, we still do this!) to taking our demands in person to embassies, Amnesty International members have helped release tens of thousands of prisoners over the years.

The Internet has become more important to our advocacy in recent years, but does it actually work?  Can electronic messages impact governmental policies or help free prisoners in far flung countries?

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