Life Under Pinochet: ‘I Remember Being Shown Some Very Severe Signs of Torture’

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In advance of the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30th, we have the following feature on Augusto Pinochet’s regime.

Roger Plant joined Amnesty International in 1972 to cover the organization’s work on Latin America. A few months after Pinochet took power by force, he went to Chile to document the arbitrary detentions, torture and disappearances. The result was a groundbreaking report that helped shine a light on the reality of life in the Latin-American country.

As a young researcher, Roger Plant had only been working for Amnesty International for less than a year when Augusto Pinochet launched his coup d’état in 1973. With his feet barely under the desk, it was a baptism of fire – a seminal moment that would eventually define his career.

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Don’t Let Herman Die Alone

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Herman Wallace may not have a lot of time left – he’s 71 years old, has advanced liver cancer, and has survived four decades of imprisonment in the cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions of solitary confinement.

He and fellow prisoner Albert Woodfox, of Angola 3 fame, have been held in solitary confinement longer than anyone else in modern U.S. history. The men have spent the past 41 years of their lives alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, deprived of any meaningful human interaction.

He and fellow prisoner Albert Woodfox, of Angola 3 fame, have been held in solitary confinement longer than anyone else in modern U.S. history.

But Herman is fighting for his life and for justice. Today, we wanted to update you and shed just a bit of light into this bleak situation. On Friday, Herman Wallace was reclassified from a maximum to a medium security prisoner. That means he now has access to the day room and will no longer wear leg restraints – an incredible change for someone who has been held in isolation for more than 40 years. Thank you to the more than 30,000 of you who helped make this possible.

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The Future of Human Rights in Iran Under President-Elect Hassan Rouhani

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

Iran’s challenges are not few, from job creation and stopping inflation to improving foreign relations. Most presidential candidates in 2013 ran on such platforms. However, there was a key issue that was not directly addressed in their political vernacular: human rights.

While many jubilant Iranians and a hopeful international community are touting president-elect Hassan Rouhani as a reformist because of his promise to ease restrictions at home, free political prisoners, and to offer more transparency for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, it should not be ignored that he remains, nevertheless, among those select few candidates approved to run by Iran’s Guardian Council.

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Torture in Mexico: ‘I Still Think It Was a Nightmare’


It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her after she was tortured and raped by Mexican soldiers.

On February 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children at school in the city of Ensenada, located in northern Mexico, when two men wearing balaclavas forced her into a white van and took her away.

Until then, Miriam didn’t know the men were soldiers or that she was being taken to a military barracks. She was blindfolded and her hands were tied.

“I didn’t know who they were or anything, and when I asked them they put a gun to my head and told me to shut up or they would blow my head off,” she told Amnesty International.

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‘The Agency That Shall Remain Nameless’: Things Left Unsaid at Guantanamo

"...there is still a length of heavy chain bolted to the floor in front of each of their seats should it be deemed necessary. They are not in prison uniform, they all wear white clothing, with turbans or headscarves..." (Photo Credit: Michelle Shephard-Pool/Getty Images).

“…there is still a length of heavy chain bolted to the floor in front of each of their seats should it be deemed necessary. They are not in prison uniform, they all wear white clothing, with turbans or headscarves…” (Photo Credit: Michelle Shephard-Pool/Getty Images).

By Anne FitzGerald, Director of Research and Crisis Response

In the military commission court - a prefabricated industrial building on a decommissioned airfield surrounded by razor wire – we observers sit behind four layers of soundproof glass, watching proceedings via a 40-second delay. The delay allows the court to cut audio to the gallery, in case someone lets slip any classified information. But even 40 seconds late, the tension is clear between secrecy and the open examination of evidence that marks a fair trial.

The five 9/11 defendants - Yemeni nationals Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Saudi Arabian Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, and Pakistani nationals Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ammar al Baluchi (Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali) – have been in the court three of four days this week. None seem to be taking part in the ongoing hunger strike.

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Good News: U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Raises Shaker Aamer With President Obama

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer is a U.K. resident who has been held in U.S. custody since 2001 – originally detained in notorious detention facilities at the Bagram and Kandahar Air Force bases in Afghanistan before being transferred in February 2002 to Guantanamo Bay. He was allegedly tortured – both in Afghanistan and during his time at Guantanamo – and has now been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, joining more than 100 other detainees at the facility who are also on strike.

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian, Shaker stated that every day at Guantanamo is torture. He finished the piece with this poignant point: “I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. But if it is God’s will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.”

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A Hospital in Amnesty’s Office: Director of Amnesty International Turkey on a Sleepless Week in Istanbul

(Photo Credit: Serra Akcan/NarPhotos).

(Photo Credit: Serra Akcan/NarPhotos).

By Amnesty International Turkey Director Murat Çekiç

As I write this, there are at least 10,000 people in Taksim Square, all protesting for 10,000 reasons. But here in our office, everything is calm.

We had a makeshift hospital here for two days. We used our desks and tables as beds for injured people, there were sleeping bags on the floor, and medicine and food everywhere. On June 11, we finally had time to clean up the mess and put our desks and computers back.

I first heard about the protests when coming back to Istanbul on May 30. The real police violence started on Friday. It was my day off, and I decided to go to the office at 3 p.m. to respond to those incredible things that were happening.

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