5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked


In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.

The death penalty deters violent crime and makes society safer.

There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect.

More than three decades after abolishing the death penalty, Canada’s murder rate remains over one third lower than it was in 1976.


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.


Should This Woman Be Jailed By The U.S. For Resistance to Iraq War?

kimberly rivera

Kimberly Rivera could face 2 to 5 years in prison for her resistance to the Iraq war.

In the next 48 hours, Kimberly Rivera will have her moment of truth: she will find out whether she will be deported to the US., where she will be immediately jailed for her resistance to the Iraq War.

While in Iraq, Kimberly began to seriously doubt the justification of the war, her participation in it, and being part of the US army. Coupled with her study of the Bible, she decided as a matter of moral conscience she could no longer participate in the war. Now she may be jailed for this decision.

She should not be.

Amnesty International believes “the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is part of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”


Dudley Do-Wrong

Protest Bush Canada

Activists protest former President Bush's visit to Canada

Last week former President George W. Bush visited British Columbia, Canada, to give a speech at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit. He was reportedly paid $150,000 for his appearance.

Setting aside the fact that the Bush administration had much the same effect on America’s economy that the iceberg had on the Titanic, there is another good reason why President Bush was a very poor choice of speaker.

As President of the United States, George Bush ordered the torture of detainees in US custody.


Canada Should Arrest and Prosecute George W. Bush on Visit

george bush

© Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Former president George W. Bush has reportedly raked in millions of dollars on the speaking circuit, and tomorrow he heads to British Columbia, Canada for another speaking event.  And, it looks like he will come and go with utter impunity.

Something about that sounds wrong.  In fact, it is wrong:  Canada, as a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, has a legal responsibility to arrest, investigate and prosecute (or extradite for prosecution to a willing country) anyone suspected of torture.  So, it would seem that a Bush visit north of the border would prompt Canadian authorities to slap the former president with an arrest warrant.


Repression Goes Global: Syrians in US Targeted By Syrian Embassies

Syrian Embassy in London

Syrian Embassy in London

While the United Nations Security Council keeps bickering and remains inactive, Syrian authorities go global with their repression of free speech and assembly.

By now it’s well documented by both NGOs and the United Nations that crimes committed by Syrian security forces against peaceful protesters may amount to crimes against humanity. Since mid-March, more than 2,200 people are reported to have been killed and thousands of others have been arrested.

However, now Syrian authorities are taking it to the next level. In more than four years of working on international human rights crises, I have never seen a foreign government systematically targeting peaceful protesters globally, which is exactly what the Syrian government is doing.


The Dirty Secret About ‘Clean’ Torture

By Darius Rejali, professor and Chair of political science at Reed College

Maher Arar

Imagine if you were arrested in a foreign country and for nine days the police beat you with a shredded electric cable. Now imagine, three days after the beatings stop, the police take you to meet your country’s embassy counsel. The police threaten you with more torture if you speak of the beatings.

Fearful of their threats, you hope the scars of torture will reveal the injustice. But your counsel sees no marks and you are led back to your cell where the torture continues.

This is what happened to Canadian Maher Arar.  His story should be a warning to anyone who thinks that the evidence of torture is always obvious. As watchdog groups discover the signs of torture, the torturers evolve their techniques. As we go into the twenty first century, torture is changing and concerned citizens need to keep pace.


Canada Endorses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On November 12th, Canada joined the majority of the world in supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Declaration is a non-legally binding human rights instrument which affirms universal standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of all Indigenous Peoples.

Adopted by the United Nations in 2007, the United States was one of four countries, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Australia, that voted against the Declaration. Australia and New Zealand reversed their initial positions, and now, with Canada’s endorsement, the United States remains the only country that has not yet endorsed the UNDRIP.

It is past-due time for the United States to endorse the UNDRIP. Unqualified support for the Declaration is fundamental to ensuring that the United States follows international human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples, who are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable peoples in the world. In the United States, nearly 24% of indigenous people live in poverty. Endorsement of the Declaration is critical to demonstrating U.S. commitment to upholding the rights of, and addressing the issues faced by indigenous populations here at home.

In April 2010, the United States announced it would formally review its position on UNDRIP. While we are heartened by President Obama’s leadership in reviewing the U.S. position on the Declaration – we continue to urge that the United States endorse the UNDRIP immediately and without qualifications, affirming U.S. commitment to protecting the rights of Indigenous people both at home and abroad. Show President Obama your support for the UNDRIP by taking action NOW!

Eleni Orphanides contributed to this post.

Give Omar Khadr His Chance at Justice

By Njambi Good, Counter Terror with Justice Campaign Director

The U.S. Constitutional amendment protecting everyone’s right to a fair trial is under attack.

On October 18, the desperately flawed trial of Omar Khadr, the young Canadian man who has been in U.S. custody since age 15, is scheduled to resume – lack of transparency, fairness, credibility and all.

The trial is flawed because it is not happening in a real court. Omar Khadr has been tortured, threatened with rape, and denied basic legal rights. Yet despite all that, his fate now hangs outside a traditional judge and jury, but rests with politicians and military personnel.

But three decision-makers, responsible for guiding policies from three different federal offices – the Department of State, Department of Justice and Department of Defense – have the power to steer this runaway trial back on course.

They can be the ones who rise above the noise and send this powerful reminder:

In this country, when a person is suspected of doing something that violates the law, no matter how heinous the alleged act, they are entitled to a fair trial in a U.S. federal court.

We do not create new systems of justice to match the crime or to secure a conviction.

That’s why we’re asking you to join us in calling on these three officials to stop this trial before it starts on October 18: Harold Koh – Legal Adviser for Department of State, David Kris – US Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Jeh Johnson – General Counsel in the Department of Defense.

The fight against torture and terrorism can also be won in the courtroom, but it begins right here. Right now.

Do Sri Lankan Asylum-Seekers Deserve Hearings?

You may not have heard about it, but a boatload of Sri Lankan Tamils recently arrived in Canada.  The Washington Post published an article quoting a former State Dept. official who advocated summarily sending them all back to Sri Lanka.  I objected to that and wrote a letter to the editor published in the Post.  Well, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S. didn’t like my letter and issued a statement in which he says he “refuted” my claims.  I didn’t appreciate that and have sent him an open letter in response.  As I said in my letter, I do hope Amnesty International and the Sri Lankan government can move toward a constructive dialogue.  I’m willing to do my part.