One Big Step Closer Toward Transparency on CIA Torture

Yesterday, President Obama voiced his support for the release of the CIA torture report (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages).

Yesterday, President Obama voiced his support for the release of the CIA torture report (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages).

By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that he strongly supports declassification and public release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture since 9/11.

This is a huge step forward in our effort to release the report! Release of this report will help us ensure that the CIA never uses torture again.

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How the Academy Blew It

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'The Act of Killing' poses  during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images).

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘The Act of Killing’ poses during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images).

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator and Max White, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Indonesia and Timor-Lesté

I had every possible appendage crossed as the Oscar for Best Documentary was announced on Sunday evening. The best documentary, film, makeup (just take a look – you’ll see what I mean) and more was The Act of Killing. The Academy chickened out and went with safe; handing the award to one of its own, lest they risk discomfort.

And The Act of Killing is very discomforting. Joshua Oppenheimer and his Indonesian crew originally hoped to tell the stories of those who survived the 1965-66 death squads let loose on the land to slaughter, torture, and rape union members, ethnic Chinese and whole villages who were all assumed to be members of the Communist Party.

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ACT NOW: Don’t Let the U.S. Hide Shocking Details About CIA Torture

Khaled al-Maqtari (Photo Credit: Private).

Khaled al-Maqtari (Photo Credit: Private).

There are some things we do know about U.S. torture practices.

What we don’t yet know is whether the U.S. Government will ever come clean about the torture of detainees since 9/11.

In the next 7 days, we have an opportunity to win a major, historic victory against torture.

Our sources tell us that shocking, unreported details about CIA torture after 9/11 are in danger of being marked “classified” forever – when we know that it is only by shedding light on the darkest periods of our history that we are able to move forward with integrity.

Lawmakers are deciding as early as next week whether to make these details public. We have 7 days to flood the switchboards.

Help ensure that the U.S. Government does not use torture – in our names and with our tax dollars – ever again. Call your Senator now.

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11,000 Reasons For Real Action in Syria

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they're running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they’re running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

By Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

WARNING: Images below contain graphic content. 

Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe. But it is hardly surprising.

The thousands of photographs, part of a report published on Tuesday, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

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Tweet Hakan Yaman the Birthday Gift He Deserves: Justice

What Hakan Yaman most wants for his birthday – what he most deserves – is justice from the state that has so tragically failed him. Today, you can help him get it with a birthday greeting through twitter.

Yaman, the father of two,  is one of the thousands of victims of shocking police violence which Amnesty has described in its new report on the suppression of freedom in Turkey during the Gezi protests. Yaman, himself, was not even a protester, but simply returning home from work during the course of the protests. Mistaken for a protester, he was attacked by police who beat him, and dragged him on top of a street fire.  Before leaving him, one police officer gouged one of his eyes out.

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2 Historical Traumas That Continue to Cast a Long Shadow Over Iran

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

One of my favorite writers, William Faulkner, famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

I’ve been thinking about how societies wrestle with the profound historical trauma resulting from human rights violations on a massive scale since I saw the powerful new film “The Act of Killing.” It takes on the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of supposed “Communists” in Indonesia after an attempted coup in 1965, but not by using typical documentary devices of archival footage and talking heads.

Instead, the director Joshua Oppenheimer opted for a unique and unsettling approach – asking some of the perpetrators of the killings, who have never been held accountable for their abuses, to recreate their crimes, often in staged genre settings inspired by their favorite classic gangster films and fluffy musicals.

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WARNING: This Film Will Keep You Up at Night

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'An Act of Killing' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair

“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”

So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.

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