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.

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On International Justice Day, An Inconvenient Truth

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir takes part in the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. Nigeria's president defended welcoming Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to the African Union health summit despite war crimes charges against him, saying it could not interfere in AU affairs.     (Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images).

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.

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Stand With Malala Yousafzai & the Right to Education at the United Nations

In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, but survived. Now, in her first public appearance since the attack, she will stand with the UN in calling for youth around the world to have access to education (Photo Credit: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images).

In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, but survived. Now, in her first public appearance since the attack, she will stand with the UN in calling for youth around the world to have access to education (Photo Credit: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images).

By Luka Mutinda, 2013 Ladis Kristof Fellow, AIUSA National Youth Action Committee Co-Chair

Nine months ago, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai stood up in brave defiance of the Taliban’s ban against female education. She was shot by Taliban gunmen in a senseless act of violence, but her powerful statement drew attention to education rights for millions of young people across the world.

This week, hundreds of youth leaders from around the world will come together at the United Nations headquarters in New York to stand in solidarity with Malala and the millions of young people who are denied access to education.

This Friday, Malala will be making her first public appearance since the shooting last fall. To commemorate her 16th birthday and highlight the urgency of the global education crisis, youth leaders will stand with Malala on July 12th to present the first-ever set of education policy demands drafted by youth.

I will join Emil Gronwall, an Amnesty youth leader from Sweden in representing Amnesty International at this historic event to address the UN youth assembly and deliver the “The Youth Resolution: The Education We Want” to world leaders in a collaborative global UN Youth Takeover.

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Loud and Clear: Women’s Rights, In Action!

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda  (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?

So we turned to a woman who walks the talk and leads change herself, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Take a look at her examples of women’s participation in claiming their own rights. Then take action on an issue important to you, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. (Don’t forget to join the World YWCA’s efforts, too!)

In your experience, what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?

For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.

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What is the UN Saying on Syria?

Sunjeev Bery on Sky News Arabia

Sunjeev Bery on Sky News Arabia

Yesterday, I joined the team at Sky News Arabia for a live discussion of the latest report on Syria by an independent UN panel. Special thanks to Sky News producer Arwa Sawan, reporter Joseph Khawly, and anchor Amer Abdel Aziz for giving Amnesty International USA an opportunity to share our analysis of the grave human rights situation.

The report (PDF) is a catalog of violence, suffering, and geopolitical developments, focusing on events between January 15th and May 15th of this year. It was produced by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.

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