Halil Savda at a Write for Rights event in France on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011 (Photo Credit: Michael Sawyer for Amnesty International).
This May 15, International Conscientious Objectors Day, is an opportunity to both celebrate the steady acceptance of this fundamental right and to highlight those countries who have not taken the basic steps to protect it.
The right to conscientious objection to military service is not a marginal concern outside the mainstream of international human rights protection and promotion. The right to conscientious objection is a basic component of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – as articulated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Supporters of Fazil Say, a world-renowned Turkish pianist who went before an Istanbul court on charges of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in comments he made on Twitter (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).
The situation is grave. Overly broad anti-terrorism laws have led to the prosecution of people for their ideas. An elderly grandmother has been convicted under terrorism charges for calling for peace between Turks and Kurds. Students, publishers, scholars and lawyers…all have been targeted under laws that confuse peaceful dissent for criminal violence. Moreover, Turkey has retained a series of laws that directly limit freedom of expression. In its most recent report, Amnesty International documents case after case in which Turkish authorities continue to attack individuals for peacefully expressing their ideas.
Abdullah al-Qahtani, a Saudi Arabian national, faces imminent execution in Iraq – a sentence based on “confessions” he says were false and obtained through torture. His story is a perfect illustration of why the death penalty is the ultimate violation of human rights; how ceding to the state the power to kill prisoners is connected to unfair trials, torture, and other abuses.
As Amnesty International’s survey of the death penalty worldwide in 2012 reports, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are both among the top executioners in the world, along with China, Iran, and, yes, the United States. The U.S. was once again the 5th most prolific executioner in 2012, and its death penalty continued to be plagued with bias and error and misconduct by the state (as has been exposed in the Reggie Clemons case).
With 15 executions in 2012, Texas would have ranked 8th in the world, between Sudan and Afghanistan.
The most negative development in recent years has been the increasingly arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws to prosecute legitimate activities including political speeches, critical writing, attendance of demonstrations and association with recognized political groups and organizations – in violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Today the Maryland House of Delegates followed the lead of the state Senate and passed the death penalty repeal bill. The bill now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley who almost certainly will sign it, making Maryland the 18th state to abandon capital punishment (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Today the Maryland House of Delegates followed the lead of the state Senate and passed the death penalty repeal bill. The bill now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley who almost certainly will sign it, making Maryland the 18th state to abandon capital punishment, and the 6th state in 6 years to join the abolition club.
This culminates a decades-long campaign, stretching back to the 1980s, in which Amnesty International – in coalition with other groups – has always played an integral part. For me personally, it caps 6 years of thoroughly meaningful and rewarding work with a terrific collection of Amnesty staff and activists and coalition partners.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its ninth periodic oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Wednesday, March 6th at 9 a.m. with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images).
On Wednesday March 6th at 9 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its ninth periodic oversight hearingof the Department of Justice with Attorney General Eric Holder. It’s not a hearing on drones and the Obama administration’s counter terrorism policy, but it should be.
As we saw with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearing with John Brennanseveral weeks ago, the Obama administration’s killing program remains shrouded in secrecy and the little information we do know gives grounds to conclude that the program as a whole allows for the use of lethal force that violates the right to lifeunder international law.
Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry arrives in the UK at Stansted Airport on February 24, 2013 in Stansted, England. Kerry is embarking on his first foreign trip as Secretary of State with stops planned in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar before returning to Washington on March 6th. (Photo by Warrick Page/Getty Images)
While you continue your important work on Syria, however, I hope that you can spare some time for the on-going human rights violations elsewhere in the Middle East. Sadly, many of these violations are undertaken by America’s allies in the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
News regarding a wave of attacks on Armenian women in Istanbul only slowly filtered out of the Armenian press in Turkey. The Turkish press initially gave the cases little attention. Meanwhile, Turkish officialdom has consistently maintained that these are no hate crimes but simple robberies or, according to some, “possible provocation.”
It is certainly possible that these crimes are, in fact, simply aimed at robbery. Istanbul is, after all, a huge, cosmopolitan city, with all the pleasures and dangers that a big city can offer.
Kurdish people hold pictures of victims killed in a Turkish air raid during a demonstration on May 26, 2012, in Istanbul. (Photo credit BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages)
On December 28, 2011, the Turkish militarykilled thirty-four of its own citizens, all civilians, most of them children in the Uludere/Qileban district, in Eastern Turkey. The youngest was twelve. A year has now passed and the families of these innocent people still wait for justice.
After seeing the new film Zero Dark Thirty, I think there are three things everyone should know:
1) Zero Dark Thirty is not a documentary. The film’s screenwriter, Mark Boal, said: “It’s a movie. It’s not a documentary… My standard is not a journalistic standard of ‘Is this a word-for-word quote?’ I’m not asking to be held to that standard and I’m certainly not representing my film as that. The standard is more, ‘Is this more or less in the ballpark?'”
2) Torture did not help find Osama bin Laden. This is established by the public record and verified by people who have access to classified information. For example, yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) sent this letterto the head of Sony Entertainment with citations pointing out that torture and other abuses did not help find Osama bin Laden.