How Did the State of the Union Stack Up On Human Rights?

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun Laws

During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.

It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?

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The Story Behind The Nigeria Satellite Images

Satellite image of the village of Doro Baga (aka Doro Gowon) in north-eastern Nigeria taken on 2 Jan 2015. Image shows an example of the densely packed structures and tree cover. Satellite image 2, taken on 7 Jan 2015, shows almost all of the structures razed. The inset demonstrates the level of destruction of most structures in the town. The red areas indicate healthy vegetation.

The town of Doron Baga, Nigeria, before it was largely razed by Boko Haram. 2 January 2015 © DigitalGlobe

Amnesty International today released satellite images that show the impact of a horrific Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria last week. The images, combined with several testimonies, provide shocking evidence of how the conflict is dramatically escalating, with dire consequences for civilians. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Elections in Nigeria Must Lead to Protection and Accountability

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In the Nigerian presidential elections on February 15th, and after a year of conflict spurred by attacks by the armed group Boko Haram, one would expect security issues to be the top topic of debate. However, in his New Years address to the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent in the election, placed little emphasis on the severity of the violence in the northern regions of the country. Instead, he devoted a majority of the speech to his commitment to the oil industry and other topics of infrastructure and development. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

An Obligation to Seek Justice for CIA Torture

Torture activism in front of the White House

The Senate torture report alleges several grave abuses – such as use of rectal feeding and rehydration in the absence of medical necessity – that were not authorized by even the dubious legal memos, and thus do not fit the Justice Department’s rationale. Even Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has said he is troubled by evidence suggesting the CIA went beyond Justice Department guidance. The Senate torture report also concludes that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” to the Justice Department.

If the Justice Department already knew of the abuses reported in the Senate torture report, it must do more to explain why it found no basis for prosecutions. And if the Justice Department did not have access to this information, how can it dismiss the Senate torture report’s new evidence out of hand?

Nor is it sufficient for the Justice Department to cite “good faith” reliance on dubious legal guidance as a basis for closing investigations. The U.S. is bound by international law to ensure accountability for torture.

This is an excerpt. Read the full piece and upvote it at US News’ Debate Club.

 

How Long Will the U.S. Turn a Blind Eye to Its Role in this Bloodshed?

Palestinian boys walk past buildings which were destroyed by Israeli strikes on their way to school in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City on September 14, 2014 on the first day of the new school year. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian boys walk past buildings which were destroyed by Israeli strikes (September 14, 2014). (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

As the UN General Assembly begins its meeting today in New York City, Amnesty International is delivering 187,563 signatures to the White House in a global call to cut off weapons that fuel abuses in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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The Terrifying Reason 64% of Mexicans Fear Detention

Facts and Figures infographicsBy Esmeralda Lopez, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Mexico My desire to end torture in Mexico runs deep. Years ago it became too dangerous for me to visit my family in Mexico because they are only hours from Ciudad Juarez, a hot spot of violence. Some officers point to incidents of violence and the high crime rate as justification for use of torture. But I know torture is not the solution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Three Steps to Achieve a Lasting Peace in Israel and Gaza

TRUCE

Palestinian children light candles next the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza City on August 27, 2014 after a long-term truce took hold following a deal hailed by Israel and Hamas as ‘victory’ in the 50-day war. (Photo credit: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

By Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International

We have seen, over and over again ceasefires dissipate in the dust of renewed bombings. Here are three basic human rights which must not be neglected if there is to be any hope for a just and sustainable peace.

The newly brokered truce between Israel and the Palestinians will be meaningless if it is not built solidly upon human rights, which must be at the heart of any attempt to stop the cycle of war crimes and other gross violations recurring incessantly. Without such a foundation, Palestinians and Israelis will continue to suffer.

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Syria is a Dangerous Place for Journalists – But Here’s Why We Need Them There

James Foley once said he reported from the Middle East because, "We're not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don't try to get really close to what these guys - men, women, American [soldiers] ... are experiencing, we don't understand the world" (Photo Credit: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images).

James Foley once said he reported from the Middle East because, “We’re not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don’t try to get really close to what these guys – men, women, American [soldiers] … are experiencing, we don’t understand the world” (Photo Credit: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images).

After three years of the Syrian uprising, it often appears like the world is tuning out. Deaths continue on a daily basis, some 9 million Syrians are listed by the U.N. as either refugees or internally displaced people, but the situation is sliding out of attention on news broadcasts, in newspaper headlines and popular attention.

This is why the beheading of reporter James Foley is so important to anyone concerned about human rights in the region. It’s important not just because, as Amnesty International says, it is “a war crime,” but because Syria right now by most standards is now the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

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Burned, Beaten, and Electrocuted: One Survivor’s Shocking Story of Torture in Morocco

Farida Aarrass has spent the last 5 years campaigning for justice for her younger brother Ali Aarrass (Photo Credit: Filip Claus/Amnesty International).

Farida Aarrass has spent the last 5 years campaigning for justice for her younger brother Ali Aarrass (Photo Credit: Filip Claus/Amnesty International).

By Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Morocco and Western Sahara

In December 2010, Ali Aarrass, a Belgian-Moroccan coffee shop owner was extradited from Spain to Morocco, where Moroccan intelligence held him in a secret prison for 12 days in Témara, near the capital city of Rabat.

Ali described the anguish his muscles and joints experienced while he was suspended from his wrists for extended periods of time, the searing pain of feeling his flesh being burned by cigarettes, enduring excruciating electric shocks to his testicles, having his head held under water until he fainted, being raped with a glass bottle, and having the soles of his feet beaten raw. He remained in the secret holding facility until he signed a “confession” pre-written for him in Arabic – a language he does not speak.

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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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