“The America I Believe In”: 3 Hopes for this July 4th

Amnesty International posterI 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:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Albert Woodfox to Kalief Browder: The Devastation of Solitary Confinement

A cell in the Closed Cell Restricted (isolation) unit in Angola prison in Louisiana. (Credit: Louisiana State Archives)

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).

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

My First Week of Freedom After 10 Years in a Nigerian Jail

Moses Akatugba

By Moses Akatugba, Nigeria

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

This Is What Happens When Thousands Stand Up to Stop Torture

The displays of solidarity, action and impact from Amnesty International activists in honor of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture will amaze you.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

6 Lies That Are Told on June 26

ATS

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

Juan Mendez: “I Was Tortured. I Know How Important It Is To Hold The CIA Accountable”

Juan Mendez, lawyer and human rights activist, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. London 30 June 2014 (c) Amnesty International

Juan Mendez, lawyer and human rights activist, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. London 30 June 2014 (c) Amnesty International

By Juan E. Méndez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment

More than once, I begged my torturers to kill me. Years later, I think about it and wonder if I really meant it. I think I did, at the time.

I was tied up, nude and blindfolded, and electrically prodded all over my body. Twice they pretended they were executing me by placing a gun to my head or in my mouth and clicking the trigger.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will Progressives in the U.S. Congress Support Palestinian Children’s Human Rights?

PalestineBlog

With just hours left before today’s deadline, 13 Members of Congress have now joined the call for Palestinian children’s human rights.

Led by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, these elected officials are signing a letter (PDF) to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that urges him to raise the human rights of Palestinian children in his dealings with the Government of Israel.

Many – but not all – of the signers are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  But many members of the Progressive Caucus have yet to sign the letter. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“Torture is Not Just Something that Happens to Mel Gibson”: 4 Things You Need to Know about John Oliver’s Takedown of CIA Torture

JohnOliverCIATortureOn Sunday, John Oliver made me laugh about CIA torture—and want to do everything in my power to stop the U.S. from returning to it.

His show, Last Week Tonight, ran a pointed critique of the U.S. government’s torture program: not just that it happened and that it was horrific, but that too many people in the United States continue to believe that it was excusable or even justifiable.

As Oliver explains, six months ago the Senate released a summary of its report on the CIA torture program, know as the Senate Torture Report. It contains disturbing allegations of forced rectal feeding, sexual abuse and extensive use of waterboarding.

Here’s what you missed – and what more you need to know:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

URGENT: This is a Must-Win Vote Against Torture. Call Congress Now!

The U.S. Senate is considering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would take critical steps to prevent a return to U.S. torture. Amnesty International USA activists are calling on Senators to do the right thing to end this American Torture Story.

This is our first shot in years to codify protections against torture into law. We need to act fast to make sure Senators know how important their vote is on this landmark legislation.

Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein have just introduced legislation to help ensure the American Torture Story is never repeated. The legislation – introduced as an amendment to a defense authorization bill – would require interrogations of all U.S. detainees to adhere to a common rulebook, which bans “techniques” like waterboarding and forced nudity.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 Things You Need to Know: The CIA’s Horrific Torture of Majid Khan

MajidKhan

By Kimie Matsuo and Zak Newman

We learned earlier this week of even more shocking, horrific details in the case of one detainee who fell victim to the CIA’s torture program. Majid Khan, who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for almost nine years, is one of the 119 men whose case is mentioned in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture. But this week’s news, coming from declassified statements from Khan himself, includes revelations of grotesque and abhorrent treatment never publicly reported by the Senate committee.

Here’s what you need to know: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST