How the Academy Blew It

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'The Act of Killing' poses  during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images).

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘The Act of Killing’ poses during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images).

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator and Max White, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Indonesia and Timor-Lesté

I had every possible appendage crossed as the Oscar for Best Documentary was announced on Sunday evening. The best documentary, film, makeup (just take a look – you’ll see what I mean) and more was The Act of Killing. The Academy chickened out and went with safe; handing the award to one of its own, lest they risk discomfort.

And The Act of Killing is very discomforting. Joshua Oppenheimer and his Indonesian crew originally hoped to tell the stories of those who survived the 1965-66 death squads let loose on the land to slaughter, torture, and rape union members, ethnic Chinese and whole villages who were all assumed to be members of the Communist Party.

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ACT NOW: Don’t Let the U.S. Hide Shocking Details About CIA Torture

Khaled al-Maqtari (Photo Credit: Private).

Khaled al-Maqtari (Photo Credit: Private).

There are some things we do know about U.S. torture practices.

What we don’t yet know is whether the U.S. Government will ever come clean about the torture of detainees since 9/11.

In the next 7 days, we have an opportunity to win a major, historic victory against torture.

Our sources tell us that shocking, unreported details about CIA torture after 9/11 are in danger of being marked “classified” forever – when we know that it is only by shedding light on the darkest periods of our history that we are able to move forward with integrity.

Lawmakers are deciding as early as next week whether to make these details public. We have 7 days to flood the switchboards.

Help ensure that the U.S. Government does not use torture – in our names and with our tax dollars – ever again. Call your Senator now.

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11,000 Reasons For Real Action in Syria

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they're running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they’re running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

By Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

WARNING: Images below contain graphic content. 

Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe. But it is hardly surprising.

The thousands of photographs, part of a report published on Tuesday, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

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Drone Strikes: When Will the U.S. Wake Up?

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This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour. Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

As the credits began to roll, the lights in the theater at the University of Cincinnati turned on. I took a deep breath. Seeing the images in Dirty Wars for the fourth time, I could feel the dull ache of my sadness, but there were no tears. I just don’t have them any more. I stood, turned to the crowd, and broke the silence.

“How do you all feel right now after watching the film?”

I looked out at a mix of blank faces, confused stares, and furrowed brows. We’ve all been there – you see something awful happening in the world, and you’re stunned for a moment, processing what you just saw. Wondering what to do next.

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The Plight of Guantanamo’s Cleared Detainees in A Powerful New Video

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The folks over at The Guardian released this creative animated video today based on the testimony of Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the detention facility but are still held.

Shaker Aamer is one of the people featured in the video. He has been detained for over 11 years without charge, despite being cleared to leave and despite UK Prime Minister David Cameron personally asking President Obama to return him to the UK. You can read Cameron’s letter to Amnesty International here.

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2 Historical Traumas That Continue to Cast a Long Shadow Over Iran

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

One of my favorite writers, William Faulkner, famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

I’ve been thinking about how societies wrestle with the profound historical trauma resulting from human rights violations on a massive scale since I saw the powerful new film “The Act of Killing.” It takes on the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of supposed “Communists” in Indonesia after an attempted coup in 1965, but not by using typical documentary devices of archival footage and talking heads.

Instead, the director Joshua Oppenheimer opted for a unique and unsettling approach – asking some of the perpetrators of the killings, who have never been held accountable for their abuses, to recreate their crimes, often in staged genre settings inspired by their favorite classic gangster films and fluffy musicals.

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WARNING: This Film Will Keep You Up at Night

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'An Act of Killing' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair

“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”

So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.

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“Please…I Beg You…Find My Son”: Mother of ‘Disappeared’ Man


 

Four years ago, Ratnam Ratnaraja, a 24-year-old Sri Lankan man, went missing. His parents still don’t know what happened to him. We think the Sri Lankan government does.

In June 2009, Ratnam had been visiting his family in northern Sri Lanka during his usual 10-day holiday before returning to resume his engineering studies at a university in the south of the country. He said goodbye to his family on June 21 to make his way back to the university by the next day. But he never arrived. His parents have been desperately searching for him ever since.

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6 Key Points for Military Intervention in Syria

Image from a civilian-uploaded YouTube video allegedly shows a mass grave of victims Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Damascus. The allegation of chemical weapons being used in the heavily-populated areas came on the second day of a mission to Syria by U.N. inspectors. The claim could not be independently verified and was vehemently denied by the Syrian authorities, who said it was intended to hinder the mission of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors (Photo Credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images).

Image from a civilian-uploaded YouTube video allegedly shows a mass grave of victims Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Damascus. The claim could not be independently verified and was vehemently denied by the Syrian authorities, who said it was intended to hinder the mission of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors (Photo Credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images).

By Kristyan Benedict, Crisis Response Campaign Manager at Amnesty International UK

In recent days, several governments, including the UK, USA and France have signaled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of August 21st. The horrific scenes in the dozens of videos I have watched from those incidents are some of the most haunting I have witnessed during this long and brutal conflict.

So now the specter of an international armed conflict looms between the Syrian government and foreign military forces. The protection of civilians is a key priority for Amnesty International. That is why we call on all parties who could be involved to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, those concerned absolutely must:

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Life Under Pinochet: ‘I Remember Being Shown Some Very Severe Signs of Torture’

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In advance of the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30th, we have the following feature on Augusto Pinochet’s regime.

Roger Plant joined Amnesty International in 1972 to cover the organization’s work on Latin America. A few months after Pinochet took power by force, he went to Chile to document the arbitrary detentions, torture and disappearances. The result was a groundbreaking report that helped shine a light on the reality of life in the Latin-American country.

As a young researcher, Roger Plant had only been working for Amnesty International for less than a year when Augusto Pinochet launched his coup d’état in 1973. With his feet barely under the desk, it was a baptism of fire – a seminal moment that would eventually define his career.

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