President Obama: Halt the Dakota Access Pipeline & Respect the Rights of Indigenous People

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 01:  Night falls on Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 1, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Native Americans and activists from around the country have been gathering at the camp for several months trying to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The proposed 1,172-mile-long pipeline would transport oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CANNON BALL, ND – DECEMBER 01: Night falls on Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 1, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

I’ve been on all four of Amnesty International’s human rights observer missions to Standing Rock. What I’ve seen there and on video has deeply concerned me. Non-violent Indigenous People opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline have been met with over-militarized policing and excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary military force. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is Dept. of Justice Use of Force Database enough?

TOPSHOT - Baltimore County Sheriffs officers gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. Goodson, who drove the van in which Freddie Gray, a young African American, was transported before he died was acquitted of all charges including second degree murder and manslaughter. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – Baltimore County Sheriffs officers gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced steps by the Department of Justice to enable the nationwide collection of data on law enforcement interactions with civilians, including data pertaining to the use of force by law enforcement.

While Amnesty International USA welcomes these small steps towards transparency and accountability, we also recognize that much more needs to be done, urgently, in order to address the the current crisis of police-involved deaths in the United States SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

These Senators are sick of US bombs killing civilians

Sa'da City, main roadIn a sign of growing concern regarding the U.S.-Saudi Arabia military alliance, 27 U.S. Senators recently backed legislation to stop a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced bill S.J.Res 39 to block the Obama Administration’s latest billion dollar tank sale. On a procedural vote, the bill failed, but to even have a vote was a major shift in the “business as usual” climate of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The bill itself represents the rising tide of dissent in Congress and across the country over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. In particular, there is increasing concern about Saudi Arabia’s military conduct in its armed conflict with the Houthi armed group in Yemen.

Together with its allies, Saudi Arabia has launched a devastating bombing campaign across Yemen, disrupting civilian communities and killing thousands. While all parties to the conflict have committed serious human rights abuses, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is the only party to the conflict to fight the war from the skies.

In spite of the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s air atrocities, the US approved sale of $1.29 billion of bombs in November 2015. In response, Murphy and Paul introduced legislation limiting sales of bombs and other air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia. The legislation conditions future sales on Saudi Arabia’s efforts to minimize harm to civilians and guarantee access to humanitarian aid for the Yemeni people.

Part of a US-made CBU-87 cluster bomb (in background) and fragment of BLU-97 cluster sub-munitions (in hand) dropped by Saudi-led coalition forces in the centre of al-Magash, a village west of Sa’da City.

Part of a US-made CBU-87 cluster bomb (in background) and fragment of BLU-97 cluster sub-munitions (in hand) dropped by Saudi-led coalition forces in al-Magash, a village west of Sa’da City.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has utterly failed to differentiate between civilian and military targets, hitting schools, villages, hospitals, and places of worship. U.S. designed or manufactured bombs have been found in the rubble. The ongoing U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia put the Obama Administration at risk of being complicit in those violations.

Prior to the Senate vote, 64 members of the House of Representatives called on President Obama to postpone the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to the President delivered August 30th, the bipartisan group urged the President to pause the deal until Congress returned from its recess and could debate the sale.

These are just the latest examples of a rising tide of congressional dissent. Here are more:

  • March 2014: 70 members of Congress urged President Obama to address human rights violations in Saudi Arabia during the President’s visit to the country.
  • March 2015: 67 members of Congress urged King Salman to implement human rights reforms in his country.
  • June 2016: Rep. Conyers proposed an amendment banning the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The proposal was very narrowly defeated, indicating Congressional concern over evidence that US cluster bombs were used in civilian areas in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

In a recent example of U.S. complicity, Amnesty International researchers determined that the bomb used in the August 15 bombing on a Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Yemen was a U.S.-manufactured bomb.

Amnesty International researchers previously documented 33 airstrikes that appear to have deliberately targeted civilians or civilian structures; such strikes are likely war crimes. In some of these cases, researchers found fragments of U.S.-designed or manufactured bombs among the ruins of Yemeni homes.

Displaced children carrying water; IDP camp in Khamir (Amran governorate).

Displaced children carrying water; IDP camp in Khamir (Amran governorate).

The war in Yemen has had disastrous consequences for the Yemeni people. The air, land, and sea blockade imposed by the coalition have made these dire humanitarian conditions worse, ensuring a chaotic environment in which Yemeni civilians must live. According to the UN, the conflict has led to the following realities:

  • 3,799 civilians have died
  • Over 6,000 civilians have suffered injuries
  • Over 3 million people are internally displaced.
  • 7.6 million people are struggling to feed themselves
  • 19.3 million do not have reliable access to clean water
  • 4.3 million women and children suffre from some form of malnourishment
  • Eight of every ten people in Yemen are dependent on humanitarian aid
  • Only 32% of promised humanitarian aid has been delivered to those who need it.

Its time for Congress and the White House to stop the U.S. arms sales that are fueling violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

AIUSA’s Formal Recommendations to Department of Justice for the Baltimore City Police Department Consent Decree Process

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: Daquan Green, age 17, sits on the curb while riot police stand guard near the CVS pharmacy that was set on fire yesterday during rioting after the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, the Department of Justice released findings from a “pattern and practice” review of the Baltimore Police Department. Amnesty International USA welcomed these findings as an important step towards transparency and accountability and expressed concern regarding alarming revelations about the use of deadly force by the Baltimore Police Department. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

With Whom are Many U.S. Police Departments Training? With a Chronic Human Rights Violator – Israel

TOPSHOT - Baltimore County Sheriffs officers gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. Goodson, who drove the van in which Freddie Gray, a young African American, was transported before he died was acquitted of all charges including second degree murder and manslaughter. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – Baltimore County Sheriffs officers gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

When the U.S. Department of Justice published a report Aug. 10 that documented “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement, and culture of retaliation” within the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), there was rightly a general reaction of outrage.

But what hasn’t received as much attention is where Baltimore police received training on crowd control, use of force and surveillance: Israel’s national police, military and intelligence services. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

DOJ Review of Baltimore Policy Department Indicates Urgent Need for Meaningful Change

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: Daquan Green, age 17, sits on the curb while riot police stand guard near the CVS pharmacy that was set on fire yesterday during rioting after the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice released findings from a “pattern and practice” review of the Baltimore Police Department. This is an important step towards transparency and accountability. While the report highlights pervasive problems throughout the BPD in how it interacts with communities of color within Baltimore, below are several of the DOJ’s findings pertaining to deadly force that require immediate attention: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

While Slaughter in the Philippines Continues, President Obama is Notably Silent

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walks past honour guards before Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald Bato Dela Rosa's Assumption of Command Ceremony at the Camp Crame in Manila on July 1, 2016.  Authoritarian firebrand Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the Philippines' president on June 30, after promising a ruthless and deeply controversial war on crime would be the main focus of his six-year term. / AFP / NOEL CELIS        (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

( NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

By T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director, Amnesty International USA

Media reports indicate that in the Philippines number of people killed by the police could be as high as 400 to 800 in the last few weeks. These cold blooded murders are committed by the police and vigilantes by the active encouragement and support of the President Duterte and his “shoot to kill” directive.  In essence President Duterte has become the “Cheer Leader” for these killings.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Just Off-Screen in Rio, a Community’s Homes Vanish in Olympic Shadow

autodromo_2

By Robyn Shepherd, Deputy Press Secretary, AIUSA

When you watch the Olympics this week, you will see plenty of Postcard Rio in between events. You’ll see the stunning natural beauty of the mountains that shoot dramatically up from the sugar sands of the coast. You’ll see people strolling the tiled seaside sidewalks in Copacabana. You’ll see shots of carefree Cariocas – residents of Rio – dancing to samba music or perusing colorful marketplaces.

Were those postcard camera views to pan out just a bit more, you would see a fence dividing the tennis and aquatics complexes from what looks like a weedy patch of ground on a lagoon dotted with a few homes – some intact, some gouged apart by bulldozers. The gleaming Olympic media center literally throws a shadow over the area. Welcome to the once-thriving community of Vila Autodrómo. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Update: Amnesty Observers at Convention Protests

Amnesty International USA's human rights observers are ensuring that people can peacefully protest at conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia

Amnesty International USA’s human rights observers are ensuring that people can peacefully protest at conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia

Amnesty International USA has deployed a delegation of independent human rights observers to monitor protests at the Republican National Convention. We’ll be in Philadelphia next week doing the same thing at the Democratic National Convention.

This is the first time we’ve deployed human rights observers to political conventions in the U.S. We’re here because we’ve seen the right to peacefully protest being infringed upon at demonstrations around the country in the years and months leading up to the conventions.

Simply put, we’re here to help ensure that all people’s human rights are respected and protected – as only Amnesty can. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Attempts to Interfere with High Profile Trial in Guatemala

Rosario Godoy de Cuevas speaks into a megaphone at a demonstration at a GAM in Guatemala, 1985.  Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM; Mutual Support Group) support group for families whose relatives had "disappeared".

Rosario Godoy de Cuevas speaks into a megaphone at a demonstration at a GAM in Guatemala, 1985. Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM; Mutual Support Group) support group for families whose relatives had “disappeared”.

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action in response to the June 21 raid of Impunity Watch’s office in Guatemala. Three armed men forced their way into the office and then blindfolded the organization’s secretary and covered her mouth with duct tape before ransacking the files.

The Dutch NGO has been assisting the family of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, the victim of an enforced disappearance in 1981. It’s offices were raided two days before the scheduled start of a trial against four high-ranking retired military officers for this crime. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST