Chad and the Arc of Justice: The Trial of Hissène Habré

Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre is escorted by prison guards into the courtroom for the first proceedings of his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar on July 20, 2015. (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre is escorted by prison guards into the courtroom for the first proceedings of his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar on July 20, 2015. (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

By Sarah Milburn and Gladys Melo-Pinzon 

Something remarkable began in Senegal on Monday a week ago. An African court in one country is trying the former head of state of another country, bringing badly-needed support to the continent’s formal human rights commitments and to the principle that no one – not even heads of state – should be above the law. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Nigerian President’s Harmful Misunderstanding of U.S. Human Rights Restrictions

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the US Department of State July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the US Department of State July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Nate Smith, Military, Security, Police Co-Group Chair, Amnesty International USA 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visited Washington, DC recently, soliciting U.S. support for his country’s struggle against the armed group known as Boko Haram. The struggle is a mighty one. As Amnesty International reported in April 2015, the armed Islamist movement in northeast Nigeria has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and it must be held to account. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Human Rights Reports that could: Analysis of the 2014 Department of State Country Reports

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).

(Photo Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

By Adotei Akwei and Larissa Peltola*

After months of anticipation by the global community, the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 finally arrived on June 25, a mere six months into 2015. This beguiling page-turner, which provides us with a summary of the state of human rights around the world, highlights virtually every country yet somehow manages to gloss over, or omit altogether, the human rights violations occurring in the United States (#closeGuantanamo).

Amnesty International USA, along with several other human rights groups, continues to welcome the reports as a potentially valuable roadmap to guide U.S. foreign policy. They offer a detailed look at the human rights situation in particular countries and often indicate developing political and human rights crises, but sadly, they have historically been ignored by the very government that produces them.

The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that human rights are a priority of its foreign policy. If that is the case, then we urge the administration to look at the reports of the countries flagged below and assess whether those countries should be receiving security or financial assistance, or whether supporting governments that treat people so poorly is a sensible investment of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

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Human Rights Victory! Swaziland Prisoners of Conscience Freed!

Thulani Maseko, appears in court in the traditional animal skin garb of a Zulu warrior, in Mbabane, Swaziland.  Maseko delivered a blistering attack on the Swazi judiciary and political system in a trial that has focused fresh attention on human rights issues in a country who's authoritarian system gets little scrutiny in international forums because of the country's small size and strategic insignificance.

Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images

Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.

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My First Week of Freedom After 10 Years in a Nigerian Jail

Moses Akatugba

By Moses Akatugba, Nigeria

When I called my mother from prison to tell her I’d been pardoned after 10 years in jail, she fainted. I was told they had to pour water on her to revive her. Later, when she saw me for the first time after all those years in jail, she grabbed me and held me so tight. She wouldn’t let go for almost 15 minutes. The whole time she had tears of joy streaming from her eyes. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Nigeria: Turning the Page or More of the Same?

NigeriaReportby Adotei Akwei and Bridget Duru

March 28, 2015 was a huge turning point for Nigeria. For the first time in the country’s history, the incumbent did not win the presidential election. General Muhammadu Buhari, the man who defeated President Goodluck Jonathan, was sworn in on May 29.

The largely peaceful political transition set an important benchmark for the rest of the continent’s democratic aspirations and of course it has also triggered hopes in Nigeria that the country is embarking on a new chapter and a political, economic and diplomatic renaissance. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

VICTORY: You Took a Stand. Now Moses Akatugba Will Walk Free!

Over the last year, activists like you have taken more than 800,000 actions in support of Moses Akatugba, who was imprisoned in Nigeria at 16 years old, tortured, and later sentenced to death on suspicion of armed robbery — a crime he says he didn’t commit.

For months, Amnesty International activists have been campaigning on Moses’s case, including writing letters, participating in demonstrations and sending online messages on Moses’s case as part of Amnesty International’s Stop Torture Campaign and 2014 Write for Rights action.

Yesterday, Amnesty activists put renewed pressure on Emmanuel Uduaghan, the governor of Delta State, to free Moses before the governor’s term ends today. We learned yesterday afternoon that Moses was granted a full pardon.

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Angola: Journalist Rafael Marques Convicted for Writing a Book

There is a short distance between freedom and conviction in Angola. For journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais, it was one week.

Rafael went to court last Thursday and thought he reached a settlement agreement on charges of criminal defamation. Today, he received a 6 month prison sentence suspended for two years. Amnesty had called for all charges to be dropped.

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Victory for Rafael Marques and Freedom of Expression in Angola!

Photo Credit: Maka Angola / MakaAngola.org

Diamonds. Murder. Torture. Broken promises. Important officials. International players. All the elements of a gripping narrative told in a Hollywood blockbuster. Except this isn’t fiction, and the person on trial was the journalist who made sure the world knew the story.

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The State of LGBT Human Rights Worldwide

LGBT activists take part in a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 June 2013. (EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV)

LGBT activists take part in a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 June 2013. (EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV)

Across the globe, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT) continue to face endemic violence, legal discrimination, and other human rights violations on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As we move from International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia this week to Pride month in the United States, Amnesty International stands with everyone working to guarantee the fundamental human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST