Will U.S. Give Survivors Their Day In Court?

 Esther Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum

Members of the Ogoni community outside of the Supreme Court, February 28, 2012. Esther Kiobel, center. (Photo by Erica Razook)

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.

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Fact vs Fiction: Arms Trade Treaty and Gun Ownership in the US

child soldier in liberia

Countries in several parts of the world grapple with the horrific problem of the use of child soldiers exacerbated by the unregulated flow of weapons. © AFP/Getty Images

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.

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A Historic Declaration of Internet Freedom

sopa protesters

SOPA protesters in New York, January 2012 (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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Google, the Benevolent Behemoth?

google censored

Google's new transparency report documents an alarming rise in censorship by governments, from the US to China.

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.

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Proposed Nuclear Power Plant Spurs Protests and Repression in India

Indian activists protest nuclear power. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

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

Battle for the Future of India

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.

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Shell's Weak Response to Activists' Demands

It’s complicated, claimed Shell on their Facebook page today in response to the barrage of messages Amnesty activists have been leaving them on Facebook, Twitter and via email demanding they own up, clean up and pay up their mess in the Niger Delta.

But nothing is complicated about the fact that Shell has reaped billions from its oil extractions in the Niger Delta while multiple oil spills there have devastated local communities. And that they’re once again failing to take responsibility for their actions and attempting to shift the blame.  Read their full Facebook response:

shell facebook post

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New Evidence Reveals Shell Wildly Underreported Niger Delta Oil Spill

shell clean up niger delta

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know about the devastation oil spills has brought communities in the Niger Delta and Shell Oil’s continuing resistance to take full responsibility.

Now, new data obtained by Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) bring shocking new facts to light.  Shell dramatically under-estimated the damage of a 2008 spill that resulted in tens of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a Niger Delta town of some 69,000 people.

The spills, that gushed for weeks before being stopped, have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of people, destroying livelihoods, undermining access to food and clean water and putting health at risk.

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4 Ways to Join Global Activists in Shaming Shell

shell own up pay up clean up niger delta

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Shell has reaped billions from its oil extractions in the Niger Delta.  Meanwhile, multiple oil spills there have scarred local communities.

It’s so bad that the fish local people catch and the water they drink are foully contaminated by oil pollution – destroying lives and livelihoods.

Despite this devastation, Shell has yet to take full responsibly of its spills and fully compensate victims.  When Shell holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this May, Amnesty activists will have delivered thousands of petitions in an unsparing public message to CEO Peter Voser and Shell shareholders.

In preparation for this delivery, we’re launching a week of action around Earth Day to remind Shell of their responsibility to own up, pay up and clean up the Niger Delta.  Help us publicly Shame shell into cleaning up their mess:

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London Olympics Further Tainted by Dow Chemical

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster demonstrate. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Since we last told you about Dow Chemical’s controversial Olympic sponsorship, things seem to have only gotten worse for Dow Chemical – from a public relations perspective anyway. Along with Dow Chemical’s horribly insensitive comments, the increased media attention has only revealed additional ethically troubling business practices.

The International Olympic Committee and games’ organizers continue (for now) solidly and uncritically back Dow as a sponsor, despite harsh criticism from Amnesty and others. But if Dow Chemical was hoping that it might benefit from the benevolent glow of the Olympic spirit of international goodwill, the past few weeks have not been kind.

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