In his New York Times opinion piece regarding Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin argues against the recently proposed U.S. military strike on Syria. Amnesty International neither condemns nor condones armed intervention in Syria. However, some of President Putin’s arguments obscure Russia’s own role in blocking a resolution to the human rights crisis in Syria.
By Khairunissa Dhala, Researcher on Sudan/South Sudan Team at Amnesty International
Does the human rights situation in Sudan still require a U.N.-mandated Independent Expert to monitor and report back on developments? That was among the issues to discussed as the 24th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) opened this week in Geneva.
Given Sudan’s dire human rights situation – ongoing armed conflicts in three different states, restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly, including arbitrary arrest and torture of human rights defenders and activists – it is hard to imagine that there is even a question on whether this is needed. But there is.
Amid a swirl of political developments, President Obama is set to deliver a national televised speech on Syria at 9:00 p.m. EST tonight. The speech was originally expected to be an effort by the White House to argue for a U.S. military strike targeting Syria. But now there’s talk of U.N. Security Council proposals to remove Syria’s chemical weapons from the country, for presumed eventual destruction. And against a backdrop of growing domestic opposition to a U.S. military strike, the U.S. government is changing its political posture in response.
Given the rapidly shifting geopolitical landscape, it is difficult to know for sure what President Obama will say in a few short hours. Indeed, it’s likely that White House advisers are themselves still editing the President’s script as you read this.
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.
Accordingly, we have identified several steps that should be taken in response to this crisis, no matter where one lands, for or against, the use of force. They are as follows:
Easing the suffering of millions of civilians affected by Syria’s ongoing armed conflict must be a top priority for world leaders meeting at the G20 Summit in St Petersburg.
The G20 is made up of some of the world’s wealthiest countries and includes states with strong ties to each of the sides in Syria’s armed conflict.
Working together, these powerful countries can and must come up with a plan of action to ease the current humanitarian crisis.
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.”
This situation has deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks after videos emerged showing scores of civilians apparently killed by chemical weapons in towns outside Damascus.
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:
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.
- 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.
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.