It’s Official! United States Signs U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

Secretary of State John Kerry signing the Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Adotei Akwei).

Secretary of State John Kerry signing the Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Adotei Akwei).

By Nate Smith, Amnesty International USA MSP Thematic Specialist

In an important step forward for human rights and international law, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on behalf of the United States earlier today.

Coming in the midst of concerns about the supply of weapons to Syrian government and Syrian rebels, Kerry’s signature signals the intention of the U.S., the world’s largest arms exporter, to abide by the terms of the treaty.

The treaty unequivocally bans arms transfers that are in violation of a U.N. arms embargo or that exporters have reason to know will be used to commit genocide and other grievous war crimes. Under the treaty, all exporting states have a new obligation to assess the risk that the weapons they provide will be used in human rights abuse and to halt such transfers where that risk is overwhelming.

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6 Questions Shell Oil Doesn’t Want You to Ask About Oil Pollution in the Niger Delta

By Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International

Full transparency is vital to establishing real solutions to oil spills and oil theft in the Niger Delta. But those that resist this most are oil companies such as Shell. If they are committed to addressing the Niger Delta’s problems of theft, sabotage and oil spills, why will they not disclose the relevant oil spill investigation data?

With that question in mind, here are 6 other questions Shell seems to be unable to answer about their role in oil pollution in Nigeria.

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Hudbay Minerals Loses Ruling Over Subsidiary’s Human Rights Violations

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

A legal ruling in Canada this week that featured Amnesty International Canada as an official intervenor offered a new path for victims of human rights abuses to seek redress against corporations where they are headquartered, even if the acts in question were both committed by a subsidiary of a corporation and took place in another country.

The Globe and Mail article, “After HudBay ruling, Canadian firms on notice over human rights,” points to the potential impact the ruling could have on corporate earnings and responsibilities of directors and investors.

Despite the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals claiming no responsibility for their subsidiary, Ontario Superior Court ruled on July 22nd that claims against the company’s security personnel for gang rapes and murder of an indigenous leader critical of mining practices in Guatemala can proceed to trial.

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Demanding Justice: How An Indian Court Took on a U.S. Chemical Giant – And Won

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

The survivors of 1984′s Bhopal gas disaster have won a significant step toward justice.

An Indian court ruled this week that Dow Chemical must explain why its wholly owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the Bhopal disaster. Union Carbide is accused of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” for over 20,000 deaths.

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What Does Your Cell Phone Have to Do with Armed Conflict?

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s long war, which has claimed an estimated three million lives as a result of fighting or disease and malnutrition, was fuelled by the regions vast mineral wealth (Photo Credit: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images).

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s long war, which has claimed an estimated three million lives as a result of fighting or disease and malnutrition, was fueled by the regions vast mineral wealth (Photo Credit: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images).

You know that phone you’re texting on? Do you know how its microchips are made?

Thanks to work by Amnesty International and partner organizations, companies that rely on certain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring countries now have to investigate and report on whether those minerals fund armed groups.

And it’s about more than just smartphones – conflict minerals” (tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold) are used in products like your laptop and even your car. Public disclosure of companies’ sourcing practices can have a real impact on entire industries, pushing companies to take human rights into account as they do business. Can you hear me now?

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Shell’s Niger Delta Pollution: The Good, the Bad and the Ongoing Quest for Justice

Oil spill in Nigeria's Ogoniland

An indigene of Bodo, Ogoniland region in Nigeria, tries to separate with a stick the crude oil from water in a boat at the Bodo waterways polluted by oil spills attributed to Shell equipment failure.(Photo credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director

This week’s ruling by a Dutch court in a case brought by four Nigerian farmers against the oil company Shell for pollution damage represents a small victory – but also underlines the real-world challenges facing victims of pollution and human rights abuses involving multinational companies.

The four farmers who brought the case had seen their livelihoods destroyed by oil pollution from Shell’s operations.

The court found in favour of one plaintiff, stating that Shell Nigeria had breached its duty of care in that case by failing to take reasonable action to prevent third parties tampering with oil wells and causing oil spills. Shell will now have to pay compensation to the affected farmer.

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Repressive Regimes Rejoice, Twitter to Censor Content

twitter bird censoredTwitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove Tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. …. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.

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