Congress is debating whether to authorize the President to use force in response to allegations that Syria used chemical weapons against opponents of the government.
Although Amnesty International has not taken – and is not likely to take – a position on the appropriateness of armed intervention, we believe the debate in Congress is inadequate, as it does not address many of the pressing issues of the Syrian crisis.
The U.N. refugee agency has announced that the refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict have surpassed 2 million (Photo Credit: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images).
By Charlotte Phillips, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Refugee and Migrants’ Rights
It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the scale and brutality of the conflict in Syria, the massive displacement and deep suffering it is causing countless human beings.
António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, has described the Syrian conflict as “the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”
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:
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.
An ‘Israeli only’ by-pass road that links Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, sitting below an Israeli settlement outside of Jerusalem (Photo Credit: Edith Garwood).
ALL Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal.
Israel’s long-running policy of settling civilians in occupied territory amounts to a war crime.
This needs to be clearly said now, without ambiguity. The United States government, as sponsor of the current ‘peace talks’ between Israel and Palestinians, must uphold rule of law and human rights. Despite the fact that the U.S. has historically taken the same position as the international community that Israeli settlements within the OPT are illegal, they have chosen to prevaricate in recent years, using words like ‘unhelpful’ or ‘illegitimate’ to describe settlement building by Israel.
12 Months of Deadly Conflict in Alepp. Explore the interactive timeline that include satellite images, citizen video and field research.
In one of the most comprehensive satellite image analysis of an active conflict zone ever conducted by a non-governmental actor, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today released a detailed damage assessment of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The impressive survey is a follow up to a September 2012 analysis by AAAS that showed the first impacts of the armed conflict on the densely populated area of Aleppo, and comes exactly a year after Amnesty International issued an urgent warning about the increased risk to civilians in the city.
By documenting the vast damage to Aleppo’s infrastructure since that warning, the newly released analysis by AAAS – pursued in collaboration with the Science for Human Rights program of Amnesty International – leaves little question as to a significant cause for the staggering displacement of half of the city’s population: a campaign of indiscriminate air bombardment by government forces, which have also reduced entire areas to rubble and killed and maimed countless civilians.
An Afghan woman displays her voter registration card at a voter registration center (Photo Credit: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images).
When did it become cliché to say that you want “world peace”? Probably for as long as anyone can remember.
But why should this be such a farfetched and unattainable objective? Perhaps we don’t believe peace will ever be sustainable because half of all peace agreements around the world fail within the first five years? Or perhaps because the way governments approach peace processes hasn’t changed despite such an abysmal record of success?
Perhaps it’s time to try something new. Something that can change this record and help build lasting and sustainable peace. Yesterday, several Members of the U.S. Congress agreed and laid down a marker for change.
Through the reintroduction of the Women, Peace and Security Act (WPS) of 2013 (H.R 2874), Members of Congress said loud and clear that the essential yet overwhelmingly absent component to both lasting peace and the prevention of recurring conflict is the inclusion of women.
Nigeria’s president defended welcoming Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to an African Union health summit this week despite war crimes charges against him, saying it could not interfere in AU affairs. (Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images).
Just as storms overwhelm unattended levees, political strife and armed conflict can overwhelm the system of international law created to ensure we do not repeat the darkest periods of human history. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statue, which established the International Criminal Court to secure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This week also brings continued news of the terrible price paid by civilians as a result of such grievous crimes in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere.
Millions have been victims of these crimes in recent history, yet only very rarely have those responsible been held accountable. In the last two decades, however, progress has been made towards reversing this trend of impunity. With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a clear message was sent around the world that failure to investigate and prosecute such crimes at the national level will not be tolerated.
Yet, every hopeful step is met with new and compelling challenges. Political alliances sometimes supersede international legal and moral obligations, shielding fugitives such as Omar al-Bashir, the sitting president of Sudan, for example, from appearing before a court of law to answer for their alleged crimes. Impunity for grave crimes robs those victimized of justice, and prevents communities and whole countries from recovering from trauma.
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education, speaks at the United Nations Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013 in New York City (Photo Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images).
By MbaLuka Michael Mutinda, Youth Activist and AIUSA Ladis Kristof Fellow
Last Friday, the world watched in awe asMalala Yousafzai addressed international leaders and youth on her 16th birthday at the U.N. General Assembly. Her message was clear: protect the right to education for young people across the world. I was fortunate to witness this historic moment along with 500 youth delegates representing more than 80 countries.
In the lead up to #Malaladay, youth leaders worked tirelessly to draft a youth resolution on education. This collaborative initiative was led by the Youth Advocacy Group and the resolution was amended by hundreds of youth delegates. In this effort, Amnesty International youth delegates and other youth asserted the need to include human rights language in the final document of the Youth Resolution. This measure was vital in strengthening the youth resolution and establishing a human rights framework for addressing the education emergency.