While the nation watches as the city of Baltimore awaits justice from the investigation of the role of Baltimore police in the death of Freddie Gray, Chicago has just made history in holding police accountable for abuse.
During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.
It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?
The Senate torture report alleges several grave abuses – such as use of rectal feeding and rehydration in the absence of medical necessity – that were not authorized by even the dubious legal memos, and thus do not fit the Justice Department’s rationale. Even Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has said he is troubled by evidence suggesting the CIA went beyond Justice Department guidance. The Senate torture report also concludes that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” to the Justice Department.
If the Justice Department already knew of the abuses reported in the Senate torture report, it must do more to explain why it found no basis for prosecutions. And if the Justice Department did not have access to this information, how can it dismiss the Senate torture report’s new evidence out of hand?
Nor is it sufficient for the Justice Department to cite “good faith” reliance on dubious legal guidance as a basis for closing investigations. The U.S. is bound by international law to ensure accountability for torture.
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Today, we learned that a grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown — an unarmed 18-year-old — in August.
The community response to Mike Brown’s death, and the response that is likely still to come, mark a pivotal moment in the human rights movement and in U.S. history.
It’s a moment of passion, of frustration, and of activism.
It’s within this moment that officials in Ferguson and throughout the United States must stand up to ensure that each individual’s human rights — including the right to freely express themselves in the form of peaceful protest — are respected, protected and fulfilled. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
It’s been over a month since Michael Brown’s death reignited a desperately needed national conversation about the importance of defending human rights at home just as strongly as we do abroad. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
This piece originally appeared in The Guardian under the title “Police Brutality Must Be Punished if We Want Real Justice for Michael Brown.”
From California to New York, from the streets in Ferguson to those in the south side of Chicago, police brutality continues unabated all across the United States because of brazen impunity – because in this country’s long history of abuse and violence by those obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities, there is still little accountability.
The majority of human rights abuses documented by Amnesty International are linked to guns. We’ve long recognized that their widespread availability creates a climate of fear and intensifies violence – involving countless numbers of people who have been tortured, killed, injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes.
Back when I served as a death row attorney, I experienced first hand that the death penalty is anything but just. I was there at the trial of Bill Andrews when a note reading ‘Hang the N*****’ was found in the jury’s lunchroom. I saw people die by lethal injection and the electric chair who I believed were innocent.
But victories like today’s remind me that the tide is turning for the death penalty in America.
Today, we came one step closer to a significant victory when the New Hampshire House voted to repeal capital punishment in the state.