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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Rachel Corrie, Michael J. Fox and the Right to Housing

gaza demolitions

The remains of a home in Gaza after it was demolished by Israeli authorities in 2002

A few weeks before she died, Rachel Corrie wrote to her mother from Rafah, Gaza. ‘I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar,’ she said, ‘and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers.’

As we know, she never had the chance to do any of those things again. Following this week’s verdict in the lawsuit filed by Rachel’s parents – accusing the Israeli military of unlawfully killing Rachel, either intentionally or through gross negligence – there has been much crucial discussion of the circumstances surrounding Rachel’s death. It is also imperative that we remember the human rights work of Rachel’s life.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Worst Place to Be a Woman in the G20

Indian women protest

According to TrustLaw's latest poll, India is the worst place to be a woman among G20 states (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

This week the G20, or the group of the world’s major economies, is convening in Mexico to consider progress and define new commitments toward economic growth and a shared agenda for the world’s wealthiest nations.

Ahead of the meetings, I participated in an expert poll conducted by TrustLaw Women, a project of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, to determine which G20 countries are the best and worst for women.

Our analysis–that reflects the views of 370 gender specialists from five continents and most of the G20 nations–found Canada to be the best G20 country for women. The worst? Perhaps a surprise: Not Saudi Arabia, but India.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

TIME to Make the DREAM a Reality

DREAM Act TIME Magazine CoverThis week’s TIME Magazine hits the newsstands today, taking us inside the lives of our fellow community members who happen to be undocumented immigrants.

In his “Not Legal Not Leaving” article, author Jose Antonio Vargas writes about how many undocumented individuals feel American. Like Vargas — an undocumented immigrant himself — these individuals may live an ostensibly American life. Yet these individuals all face the constant threat of deportation and other realities of a life lived with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

Today’s news that President Barack Obama intends to issue an executive order that will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to young undocumented immigrants who arrived as children is welcome. But it’s only a temporary measure. Immigrant children and their families need a permanent solution — and the DREAM Act, if passed, offers hope. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hacking Away at Threats

mobile phone activate

Developing an App to securely capture and transmit photo and video

In a little over a week, I’ll make my way to San Francisco to participate in an innovation event that represents the cutting edge of the promise of science and technology in the fight for human rights.

Colleagues from Amnesty International will simultaneously be convening in Berlin, and in both cities, Amnesty and their partners Random Hacks of Kindness, (with their apt slogan “Hacking for Humanity”) will seek practical solutions to the very real threats that refugees and migrants face in transit in Mexico and the Mediterranean in a two-day “hack-a-thon.”

As an aside, for those wedded to the pejorative association with ‘hack,’ ‘hacking,’ ‘hackers,’ a hackathon event is “a gathering of technically skilled individuals focusing on collaborative efforts to address a challenge, issue, or goal.” In this case, the challenge is significant.

Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children are ill-treated, abducted or raped as they travel through Mexico without legal permission as irregular migrants. As we’ve tragically seen as people have fled Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, the “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011“.

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Exploitation of Nepal’s Migrant Workers

Nepal migrant workers

Families of migrant workers in Morang district, Nepal, 2011, who were interviewed by Amnesty International.

 “Migrant workers from Nepal and other countries are like cattle in Kuwait.  Actually, cattle are probably more expensive than migrant workers there.  No one cares whether we die or are killed. Our lives have no value.” –N.R., domestic worker from Ilam district, Nepal

Anyone who has waited for a flight at Kathmandu, Nepal’s international airport has seen the large groups of men and women quietly lining up to board flights for Qatar or Malaysia, many appearing nervous, clutching only their papers or a small bag of belongings.

But the men and women boarding these flights have reason to be nervous. While some Nepalese migrant workers arrive in the destination country and earn decent wages, others end up in forced labor or exploitative conditions.

These are some of the estimated 25,000 people a month who leave Nepal for work abroad to escape poverty and unemployment at home and to send remittances back to their families in Nepal.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST