Is the U.S. State Department Understating Human Rights Abuses?

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Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Following last week’s release of the 2016 Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Amnesty International USA conducted a review of the reports and offered an analysis of the reports.

The annual, Congressionally-mandated reports are meant to highlight abuses such as human rights defenders being killed, detained or hounded in to exile, along with draconian restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, often imposed in the name of national security.

Unfortunately, this year’s report continues the practice of using diplomatic language to understate human rights violations. The report also continues to bury some cases of abuse by failing to refer to them in the summary section of the report. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

10 Reasons to Abolish the Death Penalty

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Today, Amnesty International released its annual report on the use of the death penalty worldwide. 2015 was a year of extremes – the number of executions worldwide skyrocketed, but here in the United States executions dropped to their lowest in decades. Here are 10 reasons why it’s time to abolish the death penalty now:

1. There was more than a 50% increase in 2015 executions from 2014. Amnesty confirmed 1,634 executions in 2015, 573 more than the previous year and the highest Amnesty has recorded in 25 years. That figure excludes executions in China, which likely executes more than the rest of the world combined but considers the data to be a state secret.
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2. The death penalty in the United States continues to decline. 2015 saw the fewest executions in the U.S. in 24 years and the fewest death sentences in 25 years. All 28 executions in 2015 were isolated to just six states, and only three states – Texas, Missouri, and Georgia – were responsible for 85%.
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Fleeing for Our Lives: Central American Migrant Crisis

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WATCH LIVE: Human Rights Implications of Protecting People on the Move in the Americas

Migration from Central America to the U.S. is not a new phenomenon, however the reasons, or push factors that are causing people to migrate or flee have changed. The Northern Triangle of Central America (“NTCA”), composed of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, which has caused unprecedented levels of migration. The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees has called this a humanitarian crisis. Many Central Americans are refugees who like Syrians, are fleeing for their lives.

A one-year-old from El Salvador clings to his mother  ( John Moore/Getty Images)

A one-year-old from El Salvador clings to his mother ( John Moore/Getty Images)

While the United States has seen a record in asylum applications in recent years, Central American countries are dealing with larger migratory flows from the NTCA within their borders. According a 2014 UNHCR report, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama  have had a 432% increase in asylum applications. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Road to the AGM

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March 24, 2016 – AGM Road Trip Playlist 1

The road to Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting and Human Rights Conference technically began in April of 2015, when the AIUSA Board of Directors chose Miami as the host city for our 2016 conference. The literal road trip to the conference began on March 24, when events staff and interns packed the boxes of materials and equipment that we will need to pull off a successful AGM. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Deadly Force Knows No Borders

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On March 15th, the International Day against Police Brutality will again remind the world of the lives lost and communities changed forever due to the unlawful use of deadly force by police.

Last year, we released our “Deadly Force” report, highlighting the increasing number of individuals killed by police in the United States. One of the most disturbing findings of the report, noted that all 50 states and Washington, D.C. fail to comply with international law and standards on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers, and with more than 16,000 police departments across the country, the lack of consistency is evident.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What It Takes to Defend Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights – New Report Released on SRR Defenders in the Americas

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Marlene was accused and charged with having an abortion in El Salvador after she had a miscarriage when she was 18 years old.

Marlene was accused and charged with having an abortion in El Salvador after she had a miscarriage when she was 18 years old.

By Christina V. Harris

Wasn’t the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made over 40 years ago now? And the landmark stance by the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the case of KL v. Peru made just around a decade ago? Sometimes in today’s climate, it’s hard to remember the answer is “yes” to both of these questions. Yes, women in the United States and internationally have been lawfully confirmed in their right to seek a safe, legal abortion and to make decisions and inquire into information about their bodies, their health, and their futures. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Death penalty repeal: if not now, when?

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By Rachel Livingston, Field Organizer at The Delaware Repeal Project

There is a growing call from the Black community throughout the nation for reform of the criminal justice system. We hear the bellowing of the now-famous phrase “Black Lives Matter” because Black and Brown citizens of the world are demanding that they have value and that the world should be outraged by their deaths just as much as the world is outraged at the death of most human beings.

Repeal of the death penalty is another piece of this movement that cannot be divorced from this struggle for Black Lives. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s the State of Human Rights Around the World?

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In 2015, Amnesty International investigated the human rights situation in 160 countries and territories worldwide. Progress continued in some areas, but many people and communities faced grave human rights abuses.

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At least 113 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression and the press. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

To be a Muslim in America Right Now

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JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

To be a Muslim in America right now is to fear that your best days — your most ordinary days — are behind you. Anti-Muslim hate and fear-mongering is going mainstream, and the future is a startling unknown.

Many fear that the vicious rhetoric we are hearing is a harbinger of things to come: discrimination, harassment and violent attacks on Muslims, or people who look Muslim that spreads and even becomes a new normal. That could set the stage, one day in the not-so-distant future, for government policies like mandatory registration of Muslims and internment.

Could that really happen? Perhaps my background as an American Muslim makes me more sensitive to the possibility. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Albert Woodfox Is Finally Free

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On February 19, 2016, Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox walked free, 44 years after he was first put into solitary confinement.

He was the United States’ longest serving prisoner held in isolation. Nearly every day for more than half of his life, Albert Woodfox woke up in a cell the size of a parking space, surrounded by concrete and steel.

Today, for the first time in more than four decades, he will be able to walk outside and look up into the sky. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST