How Did the State of the Union Stack Up On Human Rights?

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun Laws

During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.

It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?

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#DearObama: Use Your State of the Union to Reject Politics of Fear

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This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Dear Mr. President,

Here comes the fear again.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, some in the broadcast news media are attempting to turn the public’s shock into full-fledged hysteria – the kind that fuels not only their ratings, but suspicion, hate and a bunker mentality.

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11 Reasons January 11th Must Be Guantanamo’s Last Anniversary

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This Sunday, January 11, marks the grim 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. With the momentum President Obama has now, he must make this anniversary Guantanamo’s last. Here are 11 reasons why closing the prison now is a human rights imperative: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Paris to Peshawar: Answer with Human Rights

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Yesterday, gunmen attacked the Paris office of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. In Peshawar last month, at least 142 people—including 132 children—were killed by Taliban militants at a military-run school. These are just two of scores of attacks by armed individuals and groups that have occurred over the last year. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Chelsea Manning: ‘Why speaking out is worth the risk’

US Army Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified government material to the website Wikileaks. © Juan Osborne for Amnesty International.

US Army Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified government material to the website Wikileaks. © Juan Osborne for Amnesty International.

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. From her prison cell in Kansas, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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An Obligation to Seek Justice for CIA Torture

Torture activism in front of the White House

The Senate torture report alleges several grave abuses – such as use of rectal feeding and rehydration in the absence of medical necessity – that were not authorized by even the dubious legal memos, and thus do not fit the Justice Department’s rationale. Even Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has said he is troubled by evidence suggesting the CIA went beyond Justice Department guidance. The Senate torture report also concludes that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” to the Justice Department.

If the Justice Department already knew of the abuses reported in the Senate torture report, it must do more to explain why it found no basis for prosecutions. And if the Justice Department did not have access to this information, how can it dismiss the Senate torture report’s new evidence out of hand?

Nor is it sufficient for the Justice Department to cite “good faith” reliance on dubious legal guidance as a basis for closing investigations. The U.S. is bound by international law to ensure accountability for torture.

This is an excerpt. Read the full piece and upvote it at US News’ Debate Club.

 

What’s behind the arrests in Turkey?

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

A wave of arrests Sunday morning shook Turkey and made headline news throughout the world.  The arrests, which are part of a broad campaign against the Gülen Movement, were hardly a surprise.  A twitter user had leaked information about it some days in advance, it was preceded by some typically fire-breathing speeches by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office issued a press release before the arrests were made.  In total 27 people were arrested, including a number of journalists and media figures.

Along with other human rights organizations, Amnesty has called on Turkish authorities to release those arrested yesterday unless authorities can produce “credible evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offense.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What John Brennan Should Have Said about the Torture Report

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

By Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA Director of Security with Human Rights

Today John Brennan, director of the CIA, gave a live press conference responding to the Senate’s landmark report on the CIA torture and secret detention program. He acknowledged “mistakes.” He said that the program was “flawed.” He said that the CIA had now improved “management” and “planning.”

But words like these do not reflect the full gravity of torture and enforced disappearances. They downgrade this program of systematic human rights violations to a series of unforeseen complications. They make torture seem like a bad choice – instead of the crime that it is.

Here’s what Brennan should have said, without qualification: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Terrifying Reason 64% of Mexicans Fear Detention

Facts and Figures infographicsBy Esmeralda Lopez, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Mexico My desire to end torture in Mexico runs deep. Years ago it became too dangerous for me to visit my family in Mexico because they are only hours from Ciudad Juarez, a hot spot of violence. Some officers point to incidents of violence and the high crime rate as justification for use of torture. But I know torture is not the solution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

When Will We See Justice for Michael Brown?

Police surround and detain two people in a car on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing its fourth day of unrest after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday. (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Police surround and detain two people in a car on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing its fourth day of unrest after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images).

This piece originally appeared in The Guardian under the title “Police Brutality Must Be Punished if We Want Real Justice for Michael Brown.”

From California to New York, from the streets in Ferguson to those in the south side of Chicago, police brutality continues unabated all across the United States because of brazen impunity – because in this country’s long history of abuse and violence by those obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities, there is still little accountability.

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