What do you know about your batteries?

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By Dr. Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt, Director, Human Rights in Business Program, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law 

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They are in your mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras, and even power electric cars. But did you know that cobalt is a key component of those batteries? Where does cobalt come from? More than half of the world’s cobalt is supplied by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC and conflict minerals probably rings a bell. It’s well-known that the global trade in the 3Ts (tin, tungsten, tantalum) and gold has financed abusive armed groups in the DRC and fueled conflict. While cobalt is not a conflict mineral, artisanal miners mine cobalt in the southern part of the country under extremely dangerous and abusive work conditions, which are similar to the conditions in eastern DRC where conflict minerals are extracted. A new Amnesty report, This is What We Die For, traces the cobalt supply chain from the artisanal miners to the big brands selling electronic devices, and exposes all the governments and companies along the way that have turned a blind eye to the human rights violations suffered by the miners. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Child Labor Behind Smartphones Exposed

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Cobalt Mining in the DRC

Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child laborers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published today.

The report, This is What We Die For: Human Rights Abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Power the Global Trade in Cobalt, traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children as young as seven and adults work in perilous conditions.

“The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” said Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Which Weapons Policy for Israel Are You Using Mr. President?

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Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf forcefully countered questions about a recent Wall Street Journal article by saying 'there has been no change in policy.' But which policy did she mean? (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf forcefully countered questions about a recent Wall Street Journal article by saying ‘there has been no change in policy.’ But which policy did she mean? (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the U.S. administration is reviewing Israeli requests for weapons and munitions. The article stated that White House and State Department officials were “increasingly disturbed” that Israel “was using artillery instead of more precision-guided munitions in densely populated areas.”

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One Year After Factory Disaster, What Have We Learned?

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The Rana Plaza catastrophe on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on April 24, 2013, that left 1,138 dead and more than 2,000 injured (Photo Credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images).

The Rana Plaza catastrophe on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on April 24, 2013, that left 1,138 dead and more than 2,000 injured (Photo Credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images).

Today is the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building in Bangladesh, which left more than 1,100 workers dead and many more injured.  The disaster has become the most shocking recent example of business-related human rights abuse, and the images of dead workers in the debris of the collapsed factory have become powerful symbols of the pursuit of profit at the expense of people.

The Rana Plaza building housed numerous garment factories supplying international clothing companies. Over the past year, there have been various initiatives to provide compensation to the victims, involving government, global brands, and the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, these efforts have so far proved insufficient, and survivors continue to suffer and struggle to support themselves and their families.

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How Nigerians Are Fighting Back Against Oil Companies

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By Joe Westby, Amnesty International Corporate Campaigner and Onyekachi Okoro, Media for Justice Program, Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)

“People are dying silently. The oil companies bring sickness to our communities,” a man from a polluted community in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state told us.

But when it comes to oil spills in the Niger Delta, it’s not what you’ve suffered or what you know; it’s what you can prove.

This simple fact has hampered communities from obtaining justice, even when their lives have been turned upside down by pollution. Because the oil companies have significant control over determining vital data about oil spills, the affected communities lack reliable and impartial information, meaning they can’t effectively tell their side of the story.

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Russia’s Most Prominent Political Prisoner Freed After Ten Years Behind Bars

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Mikhail Khodorkovsky was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion. He spent 10 years in prison until his unexpected pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion. He spent 10 years in prison until his unexpected pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

By Ludmila Gordon, Amnesty USA Russia Country Specialist, Eurasia Cogroup Co-Chair

Amnesty International is happy to share the great news of the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most prominent political prisoner who spent over 10 years behind bars.

On December 19, 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly announced at the annual news conference that he decided to pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky after he received a petition from Khodorkovsky asking to be pardoned due to family reasons. Shortly after, Khodorkovsky was released from a prison colony in the Karelia region of northwestern Russia and immediately flown to Germany.

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