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

Trapped in Europe’s New Refugee Camp: Greece

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Refugees - Lesvos / Athens - March 2016

Among the olive groves on some of Greece’s beautiful islands there are barbed wire fences.

At least 6,000 asylum-seekers have been locked up here since a new European Union (EU) plan kicked in on 20 March. Some have already been deported back to Turkey, while many more anxiously await the same fate.

But they aren’t the only ones trapped in Greece. Another 46,000 people are stuck in often filthy, overcrowded sites across the mainland. They’re in limbo because they arrived after Greece’s northern border was shut in early March, and before the EU-Turkey deportation deal came into force. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Scholars Jailed in Turkey’s On-Going War Against Freedom of Expression: How You Can Take Action

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Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are academics currently held in pre-trial detention in Istanbul after they held a press conference on 10 March 2016, reiterating their support for a statement they had signed in January. The appeal for peace criticizing ongoing curfews and security operations in south eastern Turkey and calling for a resumption of peace talks between Turkey and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) initially attracted 1,128 academics across Turkey. A further 1,084 academics since signed to appeal, bringing the total to 2,212 signatories.

Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are academics currently held in pre-trial detention in Istanbul after they held a press conference on 10 March 2016.

Turkey has suffered from a series of horrendous attacks in recent months.  The security challenges it faces are very real. Unfortunately, the rhetoric coming out of Ankara suggests that, under the umbrella of fighting terrorism, the most basic civil liberties are to be targeted.

Citizens from all walks of life, including journalists, scholars, lawyers, and thirteen year olds sharing stuff on facebook, have all been targeted by the Turkish authorities simply for expressing ideas that the government doesn’t like.  Turkey’s current campaign against academics who signed a “peace petition” is emblematic of a much larger problem.  It is time to take action.  It is time to add your voice to those calling on Turkey to respect the most basic rights of freedom of expression.

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Myanmar: Student Activist, Phyoe Phyoe Aung, Finally Free

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Family members welcome student protest leaders Nandar Sitt Aung (L) and Phyo Phyo Aung (R) as they arrives for a hearing at her trial in Tharrawaddy town, Bago Region in Myanmar on April 8, 2016. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi on April 7, vowed to press for the release of political prisoners and student activists, hinting that a mass amnesty may be imminent as her government seeks to stamp its mark on power in the former junta-run nation. / AFP / YE AUNG THU        (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)

Phyoe Phyoe Aung (right) outside court, 8 April 2016. Credit: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images

Phyoe Phyoe Aung, who was detained in Myanmar after helping to organize largely peaceful student protests, has finally been released more than one year on.

Amnesty supporters across the world wrote more than 394,000 letters, emails, tweets and more for Phyoe Phyoe Aung during Write for Rights, our global letter-writing marathon. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Where Is My Brother, Adel?

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By Ali Barazi

Adel Barazi was 28 years’ old when he was arrested on 11 August 2012. A group of armed uniformed men raided his family’s house and arrested Adel and three other family members and friends without presenting any official warrant or giving any information about the reason for their arrest.

It is so heartbreaking both to see a family member arrested without any reason but dreaming of a better future for his country and to know nothing of his whereabouts though already more than three years and a half now in detention. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Meet the 2016 Ginetta Sagan Award Winner: Julienne Lusenge

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Ginetta_SaganSilence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.” — Ginetta Sagan 

This year we are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of The Ginetta Sagan Fund (GSF), an Amnesty International USA program through which we are privileged to honor and assist remarkable women from around the world who are changing the lives of millions for the better. Our awardees have included women whose work has shaped their local and global worlds, women who have often put their own lives on the line to defend the rights of others. 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

365 Days of War in Yemen

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Diplaced people who fled their homes after start of aerial bombardments by Saudi Arabia-led coalition now in IDPs camp in Khamir (Amran governorate) .

One year ago today, an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against the Huthi armed group in Yemen sparking a full-blown armed conflict.

Over the following year, the conflict has spread and fighting has engulfed the entire country. Horrific human rights abuses, as well as war crimes, are being committed throughout the country causing unbearable suffering for civilians. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST