Former Child Soldier Thanks Amnesty Members After Being Released From Guantánamo

A watch tower is seen in the currently closed Camp X-Ray, which was the first detention facility to hold 'enemy combatants' at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba  (Photo  Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

A watch tower at Camp X-Ray, which was the first detention facility to hold ‘enemy combatants’ at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada

From Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay and now the outskirts of Edmonton. Who would have thought that human rights campaigning that began with a short news report that a 15-year-old Canadian had been arrested by U.S. forces on the battlefield in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 and continued through a decade of activism, media interviews and legal work while that same young Canadian endured the lawlessness and injustices of Guantánamo Bay; would now bring me to a maximum security prison outside Edmonton?

But that is where, after eleven years of working on his case, I recently traveled to meet and spend some time with Omar Khadr.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Bringing Human Rights Home: A Message From Amnesty USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins

I grew up in the shadow of Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. As a boy, I would walk by Sing Sing and hear the inmates talking, a stark and sobering reminder of the dashed dreams of the many men I knew growing up who ended up impoverished, incarcerated or killed. Young men like my childhood best friend, who is currently serving a life sentence.

For many activists who join the struggle for human rights, there is a transformative moment, which inspires a lifelong commitment to social advocacy. For me, that moment came inside the walls of Sing Sing prison.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Jail Cell to Board Chair: Ann Burroughs on the Urgent Action Network

946701_10151615992491363_98894236_nThis post is the second in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.

Even now, twenty-seven years later, Ann Burroughs can remember what it felt like to go to prison.

I’ll never forget my anger as the door shut behind me for the first time. But I did not for a moment question my commitment to opposing injustice and the government’s repressive policies of discrimination and segregation.

Ann’s “crime” was campaigning against apartheid in South Africa. After being convicted, Amnesty declared Ann a Prisoner of Conscience and made her the subject of an Urgent Action (UA). The letters that poured in to South African officials as a result of that UA were integral in securing Ann’s release.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

2 Historical Traumas That Continue to Cast a Long Shadow Over Iran

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

One of my favorite writers, William Faulkner, famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

I’ve been thinking about how societies wrestle with the profound historical trauma resulting from human rights violations on a massive scale since I saw the powerful new film “The Act of Killing.” It takes on the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of supposed “Communists” in Indonesia after an attempted coup in 1965, but not by using typical documentary devices of archival footage and talking heads.

Instead, the director Joshua Oppenheimer opted for a unique and unsettling approach – asking some of the perpetrators of the killings, who have never been held accountable for their abuses, to recreate their crimes, often in staged genre settings inspired by their favorite classic gangster films and fluffy musicals.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

WARNING: This Film Will Keep You Up at Night

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'An Act of Killing' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair

“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”

So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

6 Key Points for Military Intervention in Syria

Image from a civilian-uploaded YouTube video allegedly shows a mass grave of victims Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Damascus. The allegation of chemical weapons being used in the heavily-populated areas came on the second day of a mission to Syria by U.N. inspectors. The claim could not be independently verified and was vehemently denied by the Syrian authorities, who said it was intended to hinder the mission of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors (Photo Credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images).

Image from a civilian-uploaded YouTube video allegedly shows a mass grave of victims Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Damascus. The claim could not be independently verified and was vehemently denied by the Syrian authorities, who said it was intended to hinder the mission of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors (Photo Credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images).

By Kristyan Benedict, Crisis Response Campaign Manager at Amnesty International UK

In recent days, several governments, including the UK, USA and France have signaled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of August 21st. The horrific scenes in the dozens of videos I have watched from those incidents are some of the most haunting I have witnessed during this long and brutal conflict.

So now the specter of an international armed conflict looms between the Syrian government and foreign military forces. The protection of civilians is a key priority for Amnesty International. That is why we call on all parties who could be involved to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, those concerned absolutely must:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Sarah Shourd: What Everyone Ought to Know About Angola 3 and Solitary Confinement

Sarah Shourd was one of three U.S. hikers arrested by Iran in 2009 on espionage charges. Shourd was held in solitary confinement for 410 days (Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images).

Sarah Shourd was one of three U.S. hikers arrested by Iran in 2009 on espionage charges. Shourd was held in solitary confinement for 410 days (Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images).

Until recently, both Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox had been held in solitary confinement for 4 decades in Louisiana – longer than almost any other known prisoner in recent U.S. history. It’s long enough for one’s body to forget it ever knew anything else but four white walls and for the mind to be reshaped by extreme isolation. Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, says that after 15 days, further isolation can cause permanent psychological damage and constitute torture.

Herman has just been diagnosed with stage 5 liver cancer. Unless Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana grants him clemency, he may likely die in prison.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hudbay Minerals Loses Ruling Over Subsidiary’s Human Rights Violations

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

A legal ruling in Canada this week that featured Amnesty International Canada as an official intervenor offered a new path for victims of human rights abuses to seek redress against corporations where they are headquartered, even if the acts in question were both committed by a subsidiary of a corporation and took place in another country.

The Globe and Mail article, “After HudBay ruling, Canadian firms on notice over human rights,” points to the potential impact the ruling could have on corporate earnings and responsibilities of directors and investors.

Despite the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals claiming no responsibility for their subsidiary, Ontario Superior Court ruled on July 22nd that claims against the company’s security personnel for gang rapes and murder of an indigenous leader critical of mining practices in Guatemala can proceed to trial.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST