These Senators are sick of US bombs killing civilians

Sa'da City, main roadIn a sign of growing concern regarding the U.S.-Saudi Arabia military alliance, 27 U.S. Senators recently backed legislation to stop a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced bill S.J.Res 39 to block the Obama Administration’s latest billion dollar tank sale. On a procedural vote, the bill failed, but to even have a vote was a major shift in the “business as usual” climate of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The bill itself represents the rising tide of dissent in Congress and across the country over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. In particular, there is increasing concern about Saudi Arabia’s military conduct in its armed conflict with the Houthi armed group in Yemen.

Together with its allies, Saudi Arabia has launched a devastating bombing campaign across Yemen, disrupting civilian communities and killing thousands. While all parties to the conflict have committed serious human rights abuses, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is the only party to the conflict to fight the war from the skies.

In spite of the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s air atrocities, the US approved sale of $1.29 billion of bombs in November 2015. In response, Murphy and Paul introduced legislation limiting sales of bombs and other air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia. The legislation conditions future sales on Saudi Arabia’s efforts to minimize harm to civilians and guarantee access to humanitarian aid for the Yemeni people.

Part of a US-made CBU-87 cluster bomb (in background) and fragment of BLU-97 cluster sub-munitions (in hand) dropped by Saudi-led coalition forces in the centre of al-Magash, a village west of Sa’da City.

Part of a US-made CBU-87 cluster bomb (in background) and fragment of BLU-97 cluster sub-munitions (in hand) dropped by Saudi-led coalition forces in al-Magash, a village west of Sa’da City.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has utterly failed to differentiate between civilian and military targets, hitting schools, villages, hospitals, and places of worship. U.S. designed or manufactured bombs have been found in the rubble. The ongoing U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia put the Obama Administration at risk of being complicit in those violations.

Prior to the Senate vote, 64 members of the House of Representatives called on President Obama to postpone the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to the President delivered August 30th, the bipartisan group urged the President to pause the deal until Congress returned from its recess and could debate the sale.

These are just the latest examples of a rising tide of congressional dissent. Here are more:

  • March 2014: 70 members of Congress urged President Obama to address human rights violations in Saudi Arabia during the President’s visit to the country.
  • March 2015: 67 members of Congress urged King Salman to implement human rights reforms in his country.
  • June 2016: Rep. Conyers proposed an amendment banning the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The proposal was very narrowly defeated, indicating Congressional concern over evidence that US cluster bombs were used in civilian areas in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

In a recent example of U.S. complicity, Amnesty International researchers determined that the bomb used in the August 15 bombing on a Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Yemen was a U.S.-manufactured bomb.

Amnesty International researchers previously documented 33 airstrikes that appear to have deliberately targeted civilians or civilian structures; such strikes are likely war crimes. In some of these cases, researchers found fragments of U.S.-designed or manufactured bombs among the ruins of Yemeni homes.

Displaced children carrying water; IDP camp in Khamir (Amran governorate).

Displaced children carrying water; IDP camp in Khamir (Amran governorate).

The war in Yemen has had disastrous consequences for the Yemeni people. The air, land, and sea blockade imposed by the coalition have made these dire humanitarian conditions worse, ensuring a chaotic environment in which Yemeni civilians must live. According to the UN, the conflict has led to the following realities:

  • 3,799 civilians have died
  • Over 6,000 civilians have suffered injuries
  • Over 3 million people are internally displaced.
  • 7.6 million people are struggling to feed themselves
  • 19.3 million do not have reliable access to clean water
  • 4.3 million women and children suffre from some form of malnourishment
  • Eight of every ten people in Yemen are dependent on humanitarian aid
  • Only 32% of promised humanitarian aid has been delivered to those who need it.

Its time for Congress and the White House to stop the U.S. arms sales that are fueling violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Ongoing Crimes: Chemical Weapons & Crimes Against Humanity in Darfur

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By Scott Edwards, Senior Adviser for Amnesty International’s Crisis Response 

Today, Amnesty International is releasing an expansive report on violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in Jebel Mara, Darfur, committed this year by Sudanese government forces and allied militia. One of the most troubling findings in this report is the use of chemical weapons, and it is almost certainly the finding that will capture the most media headlines. In many ways, this is desirable: the use of these weapons is an affront to humanity itself and its aspiration to limit the cruelty and devastation of warfare. Their use should capture headlines, as they have most recently in Syria. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why we’re still fighting on September 28th—the Global Day of Action to Decriminalize Abortion

 

By Kaitlyn Denzler, Women’s Rights Campaigner

Over two and a half years ago, Amnesty International launched the My Body, My Rights (MBMR) Campaign, a global effort to end the control and criminalization of sexuality and reproduction, and to help everyone know and claim their sexual and reproductive rights. Three years on, our work on sexual and reproductive rights remains as important as ever.  Here’s why we’re still fighting: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

AIUSA Appoints New Executive Director Margaret Huang

rk5stc0wI’m delighted to share the news that Amnesty International USA’s Board of Directors has appointed Margaret Huang as the organization’s Executive Director, effective immediately.

As you know, Margaret has played a key leadership role at AIUSA for the last several years, and she has worked in partnership with the Board, members, and staff to strengthen the organization in order to protect people’s human rights – no matter who they are or where they are. Over the last couple of years, donations and membership in AIUSA have increased, as supporters nationwide have been galvanized by our campaigns and advocacy work on key human rights issues. Margaret’s leadership has been central in bringing this stability and growth. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Troy Davis: 5 Years On

 

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Troy Davis was executed in Georgia in 2011 despite serious doubts of his guilt.

Five years ago today, Georgia put Troy Davis to death. With a mountain of doubt about his conviction and allegations that witnesses were coerced, the entire world was watching Georgia the night of September 21, 2011 –Amnesty International had mobilized its entire global movement – joined by luminaries around the world like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Pope Benedict XVI —  to call on authorities in Georgia to stop the execution. Georgia ignored the voices of over one million activists worldwide and put Troy to death.

Troy was on death row for over two decades before he was finally executed. In that time he became a leader himself in the movement to end the death penalty, with his steadfast spirit and unshakeable faith in justice inspiring activists around the world. His case became a rallying cry that ignited the abolition movement, drawing hundreds and thousands of people to devote their time and energy to achieving justice. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Troy Davis’s Legacy

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By Savannah Fox, Field Organizer

Five years ago today, on September 21st, I became an activist. I didn’t sign my first petition or attended my first rally. I found my passion, my anger and my hope as an activist, all things which keep me in the fight for justice every day.

It was a late summer evening and I was standing under the outstretched arm of Tom Watson’s statue in front of the Georgia State Capital in Atlanta, Georgia. I was surround by hundreds of activists holding signs stating “Not In My Name” and “I am Troy Davis” in bold letters. Troy Davis. Troy was the reason hundreds of us came together to huddle in anticipation and hope. Troy Davis was a black man from Savannah, Georgia who spent 20 years on death row. Seven of nine key witnesses in the case against him, which rested primarily on witness testimony, recanted or changed their testimony, and some alleged that they were coerced by police. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

AIUSA’s Formal Recommendations to Department of Justice for the Baltimore City Police Department Consent Decree Process

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: Daquan Green, age 17, sits on the curb while riot police stand guard near the CVS pharmacy that was set on fire yesterday during rioting after the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, the Department of Justice released findings from a “pattern and practice” review of the Baltimore Police Department. Amnesty International USA welcomed these findings as an important step towards transparency and accountability and expressed concern regarding alarming revelations about the use of deadly force by the Baltimore Police Department. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why are these heroes treated like criminals?

People attend the funeral of murdered indigenous activist Berta Caceres, in La Esperanza, 200 km northwest of Tegucigalpa, on March 5, 2016. Honduran indigenous activist Berta Caceres, a renowned environmentalist whose family has labeled her killing an assassination, was shot dead on March 3 at her home in La Esperanza. Caceres rose to prominence for leading the indigenous Lenca people in a struggle against a hydroelectric dam project that would have flooded large areas of native lands and cut off water supplies to hundreds.  AFP PHOTO / ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP / ORLANDO SIERRA        (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

People attend the funeral of murdered indigenous activist Berta Caceres, in La Esperanza, 200 km northwest of Tegucigalpa, on March 5, 2016. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Many people have heard of the March 2016 murder of Berta Cáceres, an award-winning environmental and indigenous rights leader in Honduras, and the many threats that proceeded her death. They may not know, however, that the Honduran authorities had falsely charged Cáceres with inciting usurpation of land, coercion, and damages against the company building the hydo-electric damn opposed by her organization, the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), in 2013. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“We have become a disposable people”: Why Amnesty went to Cannon Ball, North Dakota

 

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Last Wednesday, August 24, Amnesty International USA sent a delegation of human rights observers to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to observe protests, led by Indigenous people against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline that would abut the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and cross the Missouri River, the main source of drinking water for the Tribe and for many communities downstream. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Could you Live with “Ambiguous Loss”?

Images produced to highlight disappearances in Sri Lanka over the past 30 years. Produced to coincide with Amnesty International's "Silenced Shadows”, a poetry competition on disappearances in Sri Lanka. Full details: http://join.amnesty.org//ea-campaign/action.retrievestaticpage.do?ea_static_page_id=4326 Text reads: The UN ranks Sri Lanka as the country with the second highest number of disappeared in the world.

“I am dying bit by bit.  Sometimes when I set off on the road, I wish that a vehicle would hit me.” – Mother of disappeared youth

Over the last 30 years, Sri Lanka has been wracked by two separate conflicts:  an insurrection in the late 1980s within the majority Sinhalese community and a 26-year civil war with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam seeking an independent state for the island’s Tamil minority. Both sides in each conflict committed gross human rights abuses, including political killings, torture and abductions and enforced disappearances.  The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged having received over 65,000 disappearance complaints since 1994.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST