“The America I Believe In”: 3 Hopes for this July 4th

Amnesty International posterI see this poster every day in the main hallway of our Amnesty International office: it depicts the Statue of Liberty and reads: “The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.

It’s aspirational. And in too many ways, it’s proven the opposite of true. The United States is leading the world in perversely innovative human rights abuses, such as unlawful drone strikes and mass surveillance tapping into the Internet’s backbone.

And when it’s the US rather than another country committing human right abuses, there are additional consequences: the U.S. sets dangerous precedents for other nations to follow, while providing abusive regimes a ready-made excuse to flout their human rights obligations.

Still, I think there’s hope. July 4th is a celebration not just of U.S. nationhood, but of the country’s ideals and the best parts of its history. It’s those that I think of, when I hope for this:


Human Rights Victory! Swaziland Prisoners of Conscience Freed!

Thulani Maseko, appears in court in the traditional animal skin garb of a Zulu warrior, in Mbabane, Swaziland.  Maseko delivered a blistering attack on the Swazi judiciary and political system in a trial that has focused fresh attention on human rights issues in a country who's authoritarian system gets little scrutiny in international forums because of the country's small size and strategic insignificance.

Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images

Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.


7 ways the world has changed thanks to Edward Snowden

On June 5, 2013, The Guardian and The Washington Post published the first revelations from Edward Snowden about mass government surveillance. (c) Private

On 5 June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the first shocking evidence of global mass surveillance programs.

We’ve since learned that the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been monitoring the internet and phone activity of hundreds of millions of people across the world.

Two years on, we take a look at seven ways the landscape has changed thanks to the documents Snowden released:


The State of LGBT Human Rights Worldwide

LGBT activists take part in a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 June 2013. (EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV)

LGBT activists take part in a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 June 2013. (EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV)

Across the globe, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT) continue to face endemic violence, legal discrimination, and other human rights violations on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As we move from International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia this week to Pride month in the United States, Amnesty International stands with everyone working to guarantee the fundamental human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will the Garland Shooting Show Us An America We Can Believe In?


Scale model of the statue of Liberty, in Paris, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo Credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

When I heard about the shooting in Garland, Texas, my first thought was: Is my family safe?

I grew up in a town near Garland, and much of my family still lives there. I didn’t know who had been shot at or why, but I wanted to know if my loved ones were okay. They were.

My second thought was less urgent: it was just a nostalgia for my hometown in Texas. Its treeless freeways and strip shopping malls were bland. But the people where I grew up were kind and inviting – even the teenagers, and even when it came to people like me.


5 things you should know about Bahrain ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix


This weekend, Bahrain will host the Formula One Grand Prix. But behind the shiny fast cars and super-sized champagne bottles lies a government that is willing to stop at nothing to punish those who dare to speak out about the tragic human rights situation in the country.

Here are five facts you should know about the Gulf Kingdom ahead of one of the most glamorous events in the sporting calendar. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ferguson Resignations Underline Need for National Criminal Justice Reform

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several Ferguson, Missouri officials have now resigned after the release of a scathing Department of Justice (DOJ) report on that city’s police department that documented a widespread pattern of racial discrimination. What is now needed is implementation of criminal justice reforms not only within Ferguson but also nationwide.


Free Speech Should Be Worth More Than Diamonds in Angola

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

How many attempts by your government to keep you quiet through harassment, arrests and trials would it take before you stopped trying to hold them to account? For Rafael Marques, nothing the Angolan government has thrown at him will keep him silent. Rafael goes on trial this month for writing a book accusing army generals in Angola of alleged human rights abuses. We are calling on the US State Department to raise our free speech concerns for Rafael and all citizens to the Angola government. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Russia: Defending LGBT Rights is not “Propaganda”

Meet Elena Klimova, the latest victim of Russia's new "gay  propaganda" law (Photo Credit: Private).

Meet Elena Klimova, the latest victim of Russia’s anti-LGBT “propaganda” law (Photo Credit: Private).

On January 23, journalist Elena Klimova, the founder of the online LGBT youth support group Children 404, was convicted of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” The judgment against Klimova marks the latest assault on Russia’s LGBT community and the continued crackdown on civil society and freedom throughout the Russian Federation.

For nearly a year and a half, the Russian government has sought to silence Klimova and shut down Children 404, an invaluable source of support for thousands of LGBT teenagers, including those at risk of self-harm and suicide. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Timely New Book and the Precarious Situation of Journalists in Iran

former New York Times Iran correspondent Nazila  Fathi

former New York Times Iran correspondent Nazila

Journalists working in Iran face daunting challenges. They are constantly under threat of being suddenly arrested and detained for long periods of time, in inhumane conditions and without knowing the nature of the charges against them.

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has just earned the dubious distinction of being the longest-held foreign journalist in Iran. Detained in Evin Prison since his arrest in July, it was just announced that Jason Rezaian’s detention was extended another two months in November. This despite the fact that Iran’s top “human rights” official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said in early November that he anticipated that Mr. Rezaian would be released within one month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST