“Hot smoke filled the air within minute as soon as fire alarm rang and electricity supply became off. We were running to escape death through the dark. Many died inhaling smoke”
On the eve of President Obama’s historic visit to Myanmar (Burma), the first ever by a U.S. President, his host, President Thein Sein, has released 450 prisoners, a move surely calculated to curry favor with the United States. A smaller amnesty announced in September, just before the UN General Assembly convened, included about 60 political prisoners.
It remains to be seen whether any of an estimated 300 remaining political prisoners will be scattered among the latest batch of parolees. Nonetheless, the prisoner release is, by any measurement, an encouraging step. It says something important about the power and influence of the United States, and the desire of the new government of Myanmar to kiss up to President Obama and bask in the economic possibilities of a post-sanctions environment.
Some superstars take pride in being known by just one name, but Amnesty International USA’s star guest on September 20th goes by five: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. A town hall event aimed at the next generation of activists had young people on busses at 4 AM to make the trip to Washington, DC. The venue was perfect — the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the First Amendment.
Addressing the Rights Generation, Amnesty’s Frank Jannuzi asked the audience to keep their phones and electronic devices on during the event. Hashtags and suggested messages scrolled on the large screen as students found their networks and tweeted the story. Mid-Atlantic student leader Stephanie Viggiano was on Facebook with a video she created that day with her phone.
Outside the United States Supreme Court on Monday, a staff member from Earthrights handed Esther Kiobel a page to read. “It’s her story,” he said to a small crowd of dedicated activists holding “#shameonshell” signs. Ms. Kiobel began to read, but soon put the paper down and started talking.
“In an executive meeting, they were trying to get my husband to help get rid of Ken,” she said, speaking of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental activist who led a campaign against Shell’s operations in the Niger Delta, and who was executed by the Abacha government in 1995, together with Esther’s husband Barinem and seven others.
“I was myself charged. I was locked up twice. At night sometimes I go to sleep but then wake up and write what comes out of my head. I was stripped naked. Locked up twice.”
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a corporate accountability case that could have far-reaching implications for future efforts by survivors of human rights abuses committed in other countries to sue those responsible in U.S courts. The case is close to my heart, but its outcome is one that all human rights activists should be invested in.
Earlier this week, in the course of sorting through years of accumulated documents in preparation for our impending office move, I found the four overstuffed binders I created over a decade ago while researching cases for Amnesty’s 2002 report, United States of America: A Safe Haven for Torturers. The report examined the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its obligation to investigate and prosecute individuals found in the U.S. who are accused of torture committed in other countries, and to ensure that survivors can obtain reparation in U.S. courts.
As world leaders meet in New York this month to negotiate the first ever global arms trade treaty, the Internet has been buzzing with conspiracy theories that such a treaty would infringe on Second Amendment rights in the US.
This is a fallacy, driven at best by misinformation and at worst by a deliberate effort to undermine the treaty. Given the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually (with the US exporting 34% of all weapons) it’s not a surprise that such a misinformation campaign has taken the Internet by storm.
Here let me break down fact from fiction.
Will the ATT stop the sale of handguns in the US?
NO it will not.
Today, Amnesty International joined more than 100 organizations, academics, startup founders and tech innovators to sign on to a Declaration of Internet Freedom, a set of five principles that—if realized—would prove monumental in the longstanding fight for online freedom and universal human rights.
Many of these groups also banded together to educate about the risks and advocate for the defeat of the PIPA/SOPA bills in the US Congress (to read about our concerns with the bills, read this post).
The principles in the Declaration are simply stated:
Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
If you are not familiar with Google’s transparency reporting, you should be.
By monitoring access to Google services and publishing that data in real time, Google’s transparency tool “visualizes disruption in the free flow of information, whether it’s a government blocking information or a cable being cut,” which has great potential to augment early warning efforts for mass repression.
At any time, you can see requests for url removal from search results for copyright claims, and see who those purported owners are. As we know from discussion on this blog around PIPA and SOPA, Google’s efforts to combat infringement of intellectual property rights—at least narrowly defined—are in keeping with human rights law, and important for staving off really bad policies.
The struggle for the right to information, local consent, and a healthy environment has gone on for years at the site of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant – at India’s far southern tip. Now, after the disastrous failure of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, and with the Kudankulam plant nearing completion, the protests have intensified.
And so has the repression of over 100,000 protesters’ rights to gather peacefully and speak up against the plant.
On one side are opponents of the plant, mostly local, who fear that proper safety precautions have not been taken at a site affected by tsunamis and earthquakes. They would surely bear the heaviest burden should anything go wrong at the plant.
Some have asked why the plant is being built in remote rural Tamil Nadu instead of near Delhi. They have not been properly informed or consulted by authorities about the plant and its risks, which threatens the lives and livelihoods of these fishing communities. Protesters have peacefully demonstrated, carried out extended hunger strikes, and surrendered their voter IDs in protest. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Jagatsinghpur district in the eastern Indian state of Orissa is a poor rural place. But it is at the crucible of a battle for the future of India.
In 2005, state and national governments approved a massive steel plant here, and the South Korean steel company POSCO prepared to sink $12 billion into the project. Yet from the beginning, local residents objected to this top-down development, which would push them from their farmland and fishing spots, depriving them of their homes, land, and livelihoods (if history is any guide, they were likely to end up in distant urban slums).
After hundreds of villagers were forcibly evicted last summer opposition stiffened locally, across India and around the world. By late 2011, the Orissa government began resorting to jailing peaceful protest leaders on false charges. First it was Abhay Sahoo – who had also been jailed for 10 months in 2008-9. Then, it was Narayan Reddy.