Will Sunday’s Presidential Elections Be a Victory for Human Rights in Honduras?

“The human rights situation in Honduras seems to deteriorate every day. It looks like no one is safe from the widespread violence and insecurity. Those defending human rights are particularly exposed to abuses and attacks.
-Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Americas Deputy Program Director.

On Sunday, November 24, Hondurans will vote for their next president. Amnesty International recognizes this as an historic opportunity to improve human rights in the Central American nation. AI has sent an open letter to all of the candidates outlining specific actions that the next president must take in the areas of

  • Human Rights Defenders
  • Public Security
  • Impunity
  • Individuals & Communities at Risk (Indigenous, Garífuna, Campesinos, Women, & LGBTI)

Amnesty is very concerned about the safety of human rights defenders and journalists during and immediately after the elections. Please send a message to President Lobo that he must guarantee the protection of these individuals before, during, and after Sunday’s elections. We suggest you also send President the following tweets in English and Spanish:

  • .@PEPE_LOBO Will you publicly commit to zero tolerance of attacks against #humanrights defenders & journalists during #Honduras elections?
  •  .@PEPE_LOBO ¿Se comprometerá a cero tolerancia de ataques contra periodistas y defensoras/es de #DDHH durante #EleccionesHonduras?

Please also tweet the presidential candidates to tell them to protect human rights:

  • .@andrespavon_ @VilledaMauricio Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders & journalists? #EleccionesHonduras
  • .@JuanOrlandoH @XiomaraCastroZ Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders & journalists? #EleccionesHonduras
  • .@SalvadorNasrala @RomeoVasquezV @OrleSols @Pinusd_HN Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders and journalists? #EleccionesHonduras

What Happens When You Cry Wolf to the Kenyan Crowd

One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the recurrent challenges associated with utilizing social media outlets to report and monitor a situation during a period of time when ground events may or may not be rapidly developing (such as in Kenya): the situation is often times much more complex than 140 characters can convey, and the incorrect use of just a few words, could easily become an overflow of ingredients to an already bubbling human rights situation (Photo Credit: Till Muellenmeister/AFP/Getty Images)

Like many others, I have been closely watching the Kenyan elections. In fact, these elections may be the most “watched” elections ever. I am not necessarily talking about observers on the ground. Digital tools, including social media outlets, have greatly enhanced remote monitoring capability, and have emerged as a major component in the Kenyan elections.

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Can Election Day Votes Bring Human Rights To The USA?

voting booth

In Maryland and California, it is extremely important that those of us who want to establish a real culture of human rights here in the U.S. get out and vote. © AFP/GettyImages

In 1941, FDR enunciated the Four Freedoms, signalling U.S. commitment to basic rights for all. In 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt led the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundational document for human rights in the modern world. But despite these hopeful beginnings more than half a century ago, a culture of respect for human rights has not taken root here in the USA. The seeds were planted, but the soil has not been fertile.

From torture and executions to discrimination in things like education, or even marriage, the U.S., at the federal and state level, often engages in policies that are willfully contrary to human rights norms accepted (if not always practiced) in much of the rest of the world.

That’s why, in Maryland and California, it is extremely important that those of us who want to establish a real culture of human rights here in the U.S. get out and vote.

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2012 Elections: Will The Candidates Bother To Address Human Rights?

It is debatable whether the term human rights has been heard more the 5 times in the course of the 2012 elections. When it has been uttered, the candidates who said it quickly moved on to other issues or submerged it in a list of foreign policy crises. One is left to wonder if human rights are still a priority, let alone a pillar of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.

The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil and challenges to the respect and promotion of human rights and arguably a vacuum of leadership in support of those principles domestically and internationally.

One need only look at the headlines in the news to see examples of where the human rights analysis is missing.

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Presidential Election Recaptures Hopes for New Egypt

Ink-stained Fingers After Egyptian Elections

Egyptian women in Cairo show their ink-stained fingers after voting on May 24, 2012. MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GettyImages

In the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising, activists there have faced a long series of disappointments and broken promises. But for two days this week, the spirit of Tahrir Square was again in full evidence as a large turnout of Egyptians celebrated their first free presidential elections in our lifetime.

Nehal Amer, Amnesty International Middle East Country Specialist, was in Cairo for the elections and captured the celebratory atmosphere in Nazr City.  She noted “a bit of disorganization” but people remained upbeat. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Broken Promises in Egypt

egypt protests

Egypt's interim military rulers have been accused of continuing Mubarak-era abuses© Mohamed Ali Eddin/Demotix

After three days of violence in the streets and with national parliamentary elections, scheduled for next week, now at risk, many people have concluded that the Egyptian uprising, so inspiring in the spring has gone off the tracks this fall.

The blame falls squarely on one source: Egypt’s ruling military council.  In a new report released today, Amnesty International accuses the military rulers of “crushing the hopes” of the spring protesters and in some cases the evidence of military abuses is now exceeding that of the Mubarak regime.

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Vote for Love in Zimbabwe!

Help Zimbabwe Vote for Love this Valentines Day!

I confess-I think Valentines Day is a scam perpetrated by men to buy forgiveness for all the things they mess up the rest of the year by presenting you with bouquet of convenience store flowers. Luckily, the members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) are far less jaded. Every year they take to the streets on in Zimbabwe on Valentines Day, urging political leaders to remember the power of love is greater than the love of power.

This year, celebrating their ninth year of peaceful protest, 1800 members marched in Bulawayo on Friday-their biggest gathering to date. They sang and danced their way to the offices of the state run newspaper, calling attention to the need for free and open access to the media. This will be particularly important this year as Zimbabwe moves toward a vote on a new constitution and expected Presidential elections. Open access by all candidates to the media is critical in ensuring a free and fair election.

As the WOZA members marched, they passed out Valentines to bystanders with messages regarding constitutional reform. You can help WOZA spread the message about the need for open media access and free and fair elections by sending a Valentine to South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma. President Zuma is appointed by regional leaders to supervise Zimbabwe’s negotiated interim government and upcoming elections. Our Valentines urge him to take steps to ensure all votes are free of violence and intimidation.

Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections saw high levels of political violence, with human rights defenders like WOZA, civil society members and political opposition figures particularly targeted. Amnesty is concerned about continuing levels of violence and the great potential for extreme violence to return surrounding any votes. Take action to keep WOZA members and all Zimbabweans safe as they go to the polls. Help Zimbabwe vote for love. Find our Valentine to President Zuma here.

A Theater of Abuses in Post-Election Belarus

Since Sunday’s controversial presidential election in the ex-Soviet republic of Belarus, where incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka pronounced himself the winner, a wave of human rights violations has been hitting opposition voices in the country (like it wasn’t bad enough in the first place). Among the silenced are Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Kolyada, the founding couple of Belarus Free Theater who – according to The New York Times – “are now in hiding” after the arrest of their colleagues.

When my colleague phoned the Embassy of Belarus in Washington D.C. for a response on the Times report, she was told that the Embassy doesn’t comment on foreign newspaper content.

Here are other questions that the Belarus government doesn’t want to be asked:

- Why have seven of the nine opposition presidential candidates  been detained along with as many as 500 peaceful demonstrators, opposition activists, human rights defenders and journalists, many of whom were beaten by riot police?

- Why was there no autopsy to investigate the allegedly suicidal death of Aleh Byabebin, founder of the unofficial news website Charter’97, who had just joined the campaign team of presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov (Sannikau)?

- And why are candidate Sannikau’s legs broken and why is he not receiving medical care in detention?

Sign of an Egyptian Election: Mass Arrests

How do you know when it’s election season in Egypt?  The arrests mount up.

In what has become a regular pre-election ritual, Egyptian police and security officials have arrested more than 150 members of the Muslim Brotherhood since the group announced that it will participate in Nov. 29 parliamentary elections.  More than 70 members were arrested just in the past few days.

It’s not just the Muslim Brothers feeling the crackdown.  In the past few weeks, other political opponents have been detained, including Gamila Ismail, wife of Ayman Nour, a former leader of the El Ghad party who was convicted and sentenced to jail after being the first runner-up in the 2005 presidential campaign. Ismail was released after being detained.

The pre-election arrests follow the pattern established in previous parliamentary and presidential elections, with the Muslim Brothers often taking the greatest brunt of the crackdown.  But if the arrests no longer surprise, the Egyptian government’s contempt for the basic premises of free and fair elections still brings outrage.

“If the forthcoming elections are to be fair and credible, the Egyptian government must ensure that they are conducted on a ‘level playing field’ and uphold the rights to freedom of association of all candidates and their supporters,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.  (The complete Amnesty International statement can be found here.)

The arrests come at the same time that a ruling party official provided the strongest indication that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will run for re-election in presidential race scheduled for 2011.  If the 82-year-old Mubarak runs again, the crackdown for this year’s parliamentary election has the potential to be a tune-up for a harsher effort next year.

What will the world’s response be?  In past years, allied governments have looked the other way as the Mubarak government has crackdown on election opponents.  These crackdowns make a mockery of the electoral process and the idea that the people should be free to elect their representatives.  If the world continues to be a silent audience, and is a mere onlooker to the injustices being committed in Egypt it will have betrayed the values of human equality and dignity that are at the core of all human rights.

Stand with Aung San Suu Kyi on her 65th Birthday!

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi, © Chris Robinson

As Myanmar prepares for its upcoming elections, a sense of concern and tension is in the air. Many fear that there will once again be political unrest, resulting in widespread arrests from election-related crackdowns. Moreover, contributing to the anxiety is the anticipated release of democracy leader and co-founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has endured unofficial detention and has been held under house arrest for about 15 years in Yangon.

Will you be among those calling for justice in Myanmar on Friday?  On June 18th, Amnesty International and other NGOs will be holding a demonstration and panel discussion in New York to commemorate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday. Activists will also participate in a procession to the Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to deliver 65 yellow roses in honor of Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday.  Amnesty International members, the Burmese community, and other activists will be calling for her release, as well as for the over 2,100 political prisoners of Myanmar.

Can’t make it to the demonstration in New York? You can still support Amnesty’s efforts by joining our “Stand with Suu Kyi” photo action.

Stand with us as we stand with Suu Kyi and the more than 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar!