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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Yemen: The Humanitarian Crisis in the Shadows

Destroyed home of al-Akwa family in which five civilians were killed in two consecutive airstrikes on 13 June 2015. (Credit: Amnesty International)

Destroyed home of al-Akwa family in which five civilians were killed in two consecutive airstrikes on 13 June 2015. (Credit: Amnesty International)

By Ali Azizi, Yemen Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA

Despite more than 100 days of heavy fighting, the impoverished country of Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis that you most likely haven’t heard of.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are more than 21 million people – 80 percent of the population — in need of aid throughout the country. All essential supplies, from food to fuel to medical supplies, are in severe shortage.

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Did your Member of Congress Stand Up for Palestinian Children?

Nabi Saleh demonstrations.

On Friday, 19 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged Secretary of State John Kerry to defend the human rights of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.

Led by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, the 19 Members of Congress signed a letter to the U.S. State Department that focuses on the thousands of Palestinian children who have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted, and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system.

Here’s who signed: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will Progressives in the U.S. Congress Support Palestinian Children’s Human Rights?

PalestineBlog

With just hours left before today’s deadline, 13 Members of Congress have now joined the call for Palestinian children’s human rights.

Led by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, these elected officials are signing a letter (PDF) to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that urges him to raise the human rights of Palestinian children in his dealings with the Government of Israel.

Many – but not all – of the signers are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  But many members of the Progressive Caucus have yet to sign the letter. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What You Need to Know About Deadly Force in the United States

DeadlyForce

Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown are among the countless lives that have been lost at the hands of law enforcement officers across the country. The reports of unnecessary or excessive force by police continue to mount, captured by body cameras, dashboard cameras, cell phones and eyewitnesses. 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

Why We’re #WearingOrange on June 2nd

Gun violence is a national issue that impacts tens of thousands of Americans each year. Each day 88 people lose their lives to firearms in the United States, and countless other lives are permanently and irrevocably altered. The causes of this epidemic of violence are complex, but there are organizations working around the clock to bring it to an end.

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After 30 Years, Accountability for Police Torture in Chicago

This article originally appeared in McClatchy

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.

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Will the Garland Shooting Show Us An America We Can Believe In?

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Scale model of the statue of Liberty, in Paris, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo Credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

When I heard about the shooting in Garland, Texas, my first thought was: Is my family safe?

I grew up in a town near Garland, and much of my family still lives there. I didn’t know who had been shot at or why, but I wanted to know if my loved ones were okay. They were.

My second thought was less urgent: it was just a nostalgia for my hometown in Texas. Its treeless freeways and strip shopping malls were bland. But the people where I grew up were kind and inviting – even the teenagers, and even when it came to people like me.

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Moving Together to End Police Brutality

South African police block a march by protesting miners in Rustenburg after a security crackdown in the restive platinum belt where officers shot dead 34 strikers (Photo Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP/GettyImages).

I spend my evenings reading Twitter these days. Scroll, refresh. Scroll, refresh. I’m looking for news, yes, but I’m really looking to see if the people that I know who are protesting are still safe.

Last night, I clicked on a video of protestors gathered in front of the Ferguson police department chanting, “Why you wearing riot gear? We don’t see no riot here!” In the echo of that chant runs an anxiety based on experience: that the tension in each new moment could explode in a canister of teargas or pepper spray, in the blast of a sound cannon, in the firing of rubber bullets.

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