What do you know about your batteries?

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By Dr. Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt, Director, Human Rights in Business Program, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law 

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They are in your mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras, and even power electric cars. But did you know that cobalt is a key component of those batteries? Where does cobalt come from? More than half of the world’s cobalt is supplied by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC and conflict minerals probably rings a bell. It’s well-known that the global trade in the 3Ts (tin, tungsten, tantalum) and gold has financed abusive armed groups in the DRC and fueled conflict. While cobalt is not a conflict mineral, artisanal miners mine cobalt in the southern part of the country under extremely dangerous and abusive work conditions, which are similar to the conditions in eastern DRC where conflict minerals are extracted. A new Amnesty report, This is What We Die For, traces the cobalt supply chain from the artisanal miners to the big brands selling electronic devices, and exposes all the governments and companies along the way that have turned a blind eye to the human rights violations suffered by the miners. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Child Labor Behind Smartphones Exposed

Cobalt Mining in the DRC

Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child laborers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published today.

The report, This is What We Die For: Human Rights Abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Power the Global Trade in Cobalt, traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children as young as seven and adults work in perilous conditions.

“The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” said Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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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Diamonds Last Forever, Humans Rights Abuses Must Not: 4 Reasons You Should Care Rafael Marques Is On Trial

Rafael. trial. March 23-2015

Contributed by Amnesty USA’s Angola Country Specialist Paula Paixao.

Amnesty is urging the Angolan government drop all charges against journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael’s work is seen as a potential threat to the security of the regime. Read below to see how you raise your voice with us by joining our Twitter storm. But first, here’s why you should: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Tech and Human Rights: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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As someone whose job it is to take advantage of technological progress for human rights research and advocacy, I am a strong proponent of using new tools and methods to advance Amnesty International’s goals. There is a proven track record of how technology can help human rights researchers and defenders in their daily work. However, any debate on this topic should not overlook the increasing challenges and threats that new technologies and digital networks pose for our profession. I am increasingly interested in exploring this undeniable tension, and I am fortunate enough to moderate a panel related to this topic Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting in Brooklyn this weekend (full details below). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Free Speech Should Be Worth More Than Diamonds in Angola

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

How many attempts by your government to keep you quiet through harassment, arrests and trials would it take before you stopped trying to hold them to account? For Rafael Marques, nothing the Angolan government has thrown at him will keep him silent. Rafael goes on trial this month for writing a book accusing army generals in Angola of alleged human rights abuses. We are calling on the US State Department to raise our free speech concerns for Rafael and all citizens to the Angola government. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s behind the arrests in Turkey?

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

A wave of arrests Sunday morning shook Turkey and made headline news throughout the world.  The arrests, which are part of a broad campaign against the Gülen Movement, were hardly a surprise.  A twitter user had leaked information about it some days in advance, it was preceded by some typically fire-breathing speeches by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office issued a press release before the arrests were made.  In total 27 people were arrested, including a number of journalists and media figures.

Along with other human rights organizations, Amnesty has called on Turkish authorities to release those arrested yesterday unless authorities can produce “credible evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offense.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One of the World’s Worst Industrial Disasters Exposed on the Big Screen

Bhopal

Bhopal – A Prayer for Rain releases in the US on November 7th.

My name is Ravi Kumar, director and co-writer of the film Bhopal-A Prayer For Rain. I want you to take a second and imagine what your life would be like today if your parents not only died in an industrial disaster that could have been avoided, but those responsible had evaded punishment for 30 years.

What is an impossible thought for me, is a horrifying reality for the families of more than 20,000 women, men, and children who have died following the 1984 toxic gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Which Weapons Policy for Israel Are You Using Mr. President?

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf forcefully countered questions about a recent Wall Street Journal article by saying 'there has been no change in policy.' But which policy did she mean? (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf forcefully countered questions about a recent Wall Street Journal article by saying ‘there has been no change in policy.’ But which policy did she mean? (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the U.S. administration is reviewing Israeli requests for weapons and munitions. The article stated that White House and State Department officials were “increasingly disturbed” that Israel “was using artillery instead of more precision-guided munitions in densely populated areas.”

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The United States is Not Just a Bystander in Israel-Gaza Violence

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three  medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo Credit:  Amnesty International)

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

This past week, Israel has been carrying out air strikes and other military operations that have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of them civilians not directly participating in hostilities.

The U.S., as the largest foreign supplier of weapons, munitions, police equipment and devices, as well as training and techniques to Israel, bears a particular responsibility for the deployment of the weapons it provides.

Amnesty International is calling for a U.N.-mandated international investigation into violations committed on all sides amidst ongoing Israeli air strikes on Gaza and continuing volleys of indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian armed groups into Israel.  Amnesty is also calling for a UN-imposed comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.

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