Iraq’s Crisis: 3 Quick Points for U.S. Policymakers

Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on June 17 (Photo Credit: Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on June 17 (Photo Credit: Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

As the latest crisis in Iraq unfolds, here are three basic points for U.S. policymakers to keep in mind:

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I Am Proof: Torture Exists in the United States

Darrell Cannon (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Darrell Cannon (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Darrell Cannon, Torture Survivor and Activist 

My name is Darrell Cannon. I’m here to share the story of more than 100 people who were tortured by Chicago police under the command of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

I am a survivor. And I need your help.

On Nov. 2, 1983, a contingent of police officers burst into my family’s apartment and arrested me for murder.

On the way to Chicago’s Area 2 headquarters, they warned me that they had “a scientific way of interrogating n******.”

They later drove me to a secluded location, where they forced a shotgun in my mouth and pulled the trigger over and over again, making me believe it was loaded each time. They pulled my pants down and shocked me with a cattle prod on my genitals.

I confessed.

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Boko Haram: Now What?

Women hold banners during a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom (Photo Credit: Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty Images).

Women hold banners during a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom (Photo Credit: Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty Images).

Johanna Lee contributed to this post. 

In mid-April, Islamist armed group Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls aged 15-18 from the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria. The abductions triggered outrage, protests and a social media campaign criticizing the response of the Nigerian authorities and demanding a major effort to secure the freedom of the girls.

Yet, almost two months later, little, if any, progress has been made in freeing the kidnapped girls and the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and his security forces have failed to communicate a plan or even convince the families of the girls that they are doing all that they can to get the girls released.

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Can Angelina Jolie and the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict Help Stop This Crisis?

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie arriving at the airport in Sarajevo to visit Bosnia ahead of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 27, 2014 (Photo Credit: Samir Yordamovic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie arriving at the airport in Sarajevo to visit Bosnia ahead of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 27, 2014 (Photo Credit: Samir Yordamovic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

When a violent conflict emerges, it is women and girls who bear the brunt of the conflict in some of the most horrific ways imaginable.

For example, from 2006 to 2007, faced with a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 400,000 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 were raped. In other words, every five minutes in the DRC, four women and girls were raped. These are human rights abuses perpetrated at an astounding rate.

These abuses have touched conflict zones across the world: from Bosnia to Syria to Colombia, and have become a prominent feature of modern armed conflict.

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Shining a Light on Gun Violence That No One Can Ignore

Even though we live in a country whose firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries with comparable wealth and population size, , we haven’t conducted extensive research as to why this is the case (Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images).

Even though we live in a country whose firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries with comparable wealth and population size, , we haven’t conducted extensive research as to why this is the case (Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images).

By Jeremy Schroeder, Amnesty International USA Board Member

Over the weekend of April 4, while over 900 Amnesty International activists from around the country converged on Chicago for the Amnesty International USA Annual General Meeting, 27 Chicago residents were victims of gun violence. And over the following weekend, 36 more Chicagoans were shot in 36 hours.

While these individual statistics are shocking, they do not convey the complex and horrific problems gun violence imposes on victims’ families, communities and the affected city at large.

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The State of LGBT Rights Around The World

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International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is an opportunity to draw the attention of political and cultural leaders, the media, and the broader public to the human rights of LGBT people.

This IDAHOT, Amnesty International reaffirms our core belief that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to exercise their full human rights, and we stand in full solidarity with LGBT people whose fundamental rights are endangered.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face disproportionately high levels of discrimination when accessing health care, education, housing, and employment. In almost 80 countries, consensual same-sex conduct remains criminalized; even where homosexuality has been decriminalized, LGBT people are frequently subject to arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, imprisonment, torture, and other violence.

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Introducing Amnesty’s New Global Campaign Against Torture

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Darrell Cannon was tortured by three Chicago Police Department detectives at a remote site on Chicago’s South Side. Over course of a day, they pressed a cattle prod to his testicles and put it into his mouth. The officers attempted to lift him off the ground by handcuffs secured behind his back, contorting his upper body. They repeatedly made him believe that they had loaded a shotgun and rammed in into his mouth, breaking his tooth.

“These are all things they enjoyed doing,” Darrell Cannon told Amnesty International, his voice cracking.

He spent 24 years in prison on the basis of a coerced confession that was tortured out of him – ten of those years suffering further degradation in solitary confinement at Tamms Supermax prison.

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This Mother’s Day, What More Can be Done to Help End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally?

The International Violence Against Women Act introduced yesterday in the Senate would make legislation ending violence against women a diplomatic and foreign assistance priority for the U.S. government (Photo Credit: Sarah K. Eddy).

The International Violence Against Women Act introduced yesterday in the Senate would make legislation ending violence against women a diplomatic and foreign assistance priority for the U.S. government (Photo Credit: Sarah K. Eddy).

The eyes of the world are currently focused on Nigeria and the efforts to free the nearly 300 schoolgirls currently held captive by Boko Haram. The abduction of these girls is yet another deeply disturbing example of the ways in which violence against girls and women affects every aspect of their lives, in this case, their right to education.

Even as we work to #BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria, we continue to press for a permanent solution to end violence against women and girls globally.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate took an action that would help.

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