CIA Torture Just Got One Step Closer to Facing Accountability

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Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

“You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” I keep a poster up in my office with this quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it perfectly summarizes Amnesty International’s work of pushing back against the human rights abuses carried out in the name of national security. That’s because we’re fighting against fear and hate, which are powerful, intimidating adversaries. But recent victories have reminded me that there’s something stronger than fear and hate, and that our fight is worthwhile. We may feel sometimes as if human rights rarely win – but this time, they did. And they won big. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Torture Is Not the Answer

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Still from 'Waiting For The Guards ' shows simulated torture by the CIA

Still from ‘Waiting For The Guards ‘ shows simulated torture by the CIA

Too little, and much too late. CIA Director John Brennan this week declared that the CIA would refuse to engage in waterboarding in the future, even if ordered to do so.

This was the latest in a recent string of headline-grabbing proclamations from current and former U.S. officials insisting that, if faced with the dilemma between following orders or rejecting torture, they would reject torture.

As welcome as these promises are, they ring hollow. That’s because the same U.S. intelligence community was already faced with that exact dilemma, and they got it wrong. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s the State of Human Rights Around the World?

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In 2015, Amnesty International investigated the human rights situation in 160 countries and territories worldwide. Progress continued in some areas, but many people and communities faced grave human rights abuses.

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At least 113 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression and the press. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

To be a Muslim in America Right Now

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JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

To be a Muslim in America right now is to fear that your best days — your most ordinary days — are behind you. Anti-Muslim hate and fear-mongering is going mainstream, and the future is a startling unknown.

Many fear that the vicious rhetoric we are hearing is a harbinger of things to come: discrimination, harassment and violent attacks on Muslims, or people who look Muslim that spreads and even becomes a new normal. That could set the stage, one day in the not-so-distant future, for government policies like mandatory registration of Muslims and internment.

Could that really happen? Perhaps my background as an American Muslim makes me more sensitive to the possibility. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why Protecting Torture Victims Scares Egypt’s Leaders

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Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

In 2014, Amnesty International USA gave one of its highest awards for human rights activism to a collection of women who for more than two decades ignored governmental harassment and ran a torture and domestic violence rehabilitation center in Cairo, Egypt.

This week, the Egyptian government gave an order to shut them down.
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“My Heart Is Exhausted”: A Mother’s Story of Death Row in Saudi Arabia

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Ali al-Nimr was just 17 when he was arrested on 14 February 2012 a few months after taking part in anti-government rallies. He was sentenced to death, despite being a minor when he was arrested and following a deeply unfair trial based on “confessions” he says were obtained through torture. He now awaits his execution. His mother, Nassra al-Ahmed, tells their story:

When I first heard the verdict to execute my little boy, I felt as if a thunderbolt was hitting my head. It rendered me bereaved and rid of the most cherished and beautiful things I have.

His absence has exhausted my heart. My eyes shed tears automatically, yearning for him. I am overtaken by missing his angelic features. His smile never leaves my mind and memories prompt me to weep each time I see one of his pictures. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Waterboarding Is Torture: 3 Things You Need to Know

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Still from 'The Stuff of Life'

For years, Amnesty International has witnessed public figures repeating misconceptions and inaccuracies about waterboarding.  This American debate on torture has mostly got it wrong – here are three realities you need to know:

  1. Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation

People who take the time to learn about Waterboarding see how horrific it is.

But many people don’t. Media and public figures often describe waterboarding as a form of “enhanced interrogation”—a euphemism that rationalizes and sanitizes torture. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Muhammed, What Were You Thinking About When You Accepted the Reality of Your Death?

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Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster.  Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster. Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Muhammed -What were you thinking about when you accepted the reality of your own death?

What thoughts and images went through your mind when you realized you were willing to risk permanent physical damage or even death to gain your freedom?

Were you thinking about the softness of your babies’ cheeks? How they smelled so fresh and their skin felt so soft after bath time?

Muhammed al Qiq, a Palestinian journalist and father of two small children, has been on hunger strike for over seventy-five days – refusing everything but water, to protest the torture and other ill-treatment to which he says he was subjected to in Israeli custody, and to demand his release from detention he believes is motivated by his work as a journalist. He was placed under administrative detention, unable to see the evidence against him and unable to challenge the ‘evidence’ or his accusers in a fair judicial setting. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Guantanamo’s Poetry: 14 Years Too Many

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Can you imagine needing to write? What if you needed to write so badly that’d you use toothpaste instead of a pen, a Styrofoam cup instead of paper, if that’s all you had?

What would it be like if this writing – this poetry – was the only way to preserve your sanity? Your humanity?

That’s how it was – how it may still be – for the prisoners at Guantánamo. As the prison enters its 15th year of operation, there are 107 people still there, and most are held without charge. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST