By Rob Freer, US Researcher at Amnesty International
Almost 5,000 days after transferring Tariq Ali Abdullah Ahmed Ba Odah to the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, the US authorities have turned the screw on him yet tighter. This is despite knowing that they risk inserting a nail in his coffin by so doing. The health of this Yemeni national is in a parlous state. He has been on hunger strike since 2007 in protest at his indefinite detention without charge or trial. His body weight is currently at around 56 per cent of its ideal and has been for several months. In a brief filed in federal court in June 2015, his lawyers assert that “he is visibly suffering from the devastating effects of severe malnutrition and is at serious risk of permanent and neurological impairment and death.” The brief seeks a judicial order requiring the government to “take every necessary and appropriate step to facilitate his immediate release from Guantánamo.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
On Sunday, ABC News asked Donald Trump whether, if elected president, he would authorize waterboarding and other forms of torture. His response? “When you see the other side chopping off heads, waterboarding doesn’t sound very severe.”
According to Vox, Donald Trump has “opened the door to torturing terrorism suspects if he’s elected.”
But perhaps what’s more troubling is that Trump isn’t alone. His misconceptions and inaccuracies actually pervade American debate on torture. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
After months of anticipation by the global community, the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 finally arrived on June 25, a mere six months into 2015. This beguiling page-turner, which provides us with a summary of the state of human rights around the world, highlights virtually every country yet somehow manages to gloss over, or omit altogether, the human rights violations occurring in the United States (#closeGuantanamo).
Amnesty International USA, along with several other human rights groups, continues towelcome the reports as a potentially valuable roadmap to guide U.S. foreign policy. They offer a detailed look at the human rights situation in particular countries and often indicate developing political and human rights crises, but sadly, they have historically been ignored by the very government that produces them.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that human rights are a priority of its foreign policy. If that is the case, then we urge the administration to look at the reports of the countries flagged below and assess whether those countries should be receiving security or financial assistance, or whether supporting governments that treat people so poorly is a sensible investment of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.
I see this poster every day in the main hallway of our Amnesty International office: it depicts the Statue of Liberty and reads: “The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.”
It’s aspirational. And in too many ways, it’s proven the opposite of true. The United States is leading the world in perversely innovative human rights abuses, such as unlawful drone strikes and mass surveillance tapping into the Internet’s backbone.
And when it’s the US rather than another country committing human right abuses, there are additional consequences: the U.S. sets dangerous precedents for other nations to follow, while providing abusive regimes a ready-made excuse to flout their human rights obligations.
Still, I think there’s hope. July 4th is a celebration not just of U.S. nationhood, but of the country’s ideals and the best parts of its history. It’s those that I think of, when I hope for this:
A cell in the isolation unit in Angola prison in Louisiana. (Credit: Louisiana State Archives)
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has specifically condemned Woodfox’s treatment as torture and called on the United States to eliminate the use of prolonged isolation. Albert’s case has returned to the spotlight in the past month because he is no longer a convicted man – a federal judge ordered his unconditional release in early June, two years after his conviction had been overturned for a third time (a last-minute appeal kept him behind bars).
When I called my mother from prison to tell her I’d been pardoned after 10 years in jail, she fainted. I was told they had to pour water on her to revive her. Later, when she saw me for the first time after all those years in jail, she grabbed me and held me so tight. She wouldn’t let go for almost 15 minutes. The whole time she had tears of joy streaming from her eyes. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Every year on June 26th, we stand with victims and survivors of torture for a day of action that is marked globally. Often, the U.S. president issues a statement or makes a speech, pledging support for the eradication of torture.
This year, as we witness evasion and inaction from the Justice Department about its failure to hold anyone accountable for CIA torture, we can’t let it pass: there are too many holes, too many hypocrisies, and too many lies in these U.S. government commitments. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST