4 Quick Ways to Take Further Action on Turkish Abuses

A riot police fires tear gas at demonstrators during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo Credit: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

A riot police fires tear gas at demonstrators during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo Credit: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

In Turkey, police violence against peaceful protestors continues. It is time for the world community to make its condemnation clear, not only through words, but through action. In this, Turkey’s most important ally, the United States, should take the lead.

In June and July, the world was galvanized by scenes of police violence against peaceful protestors in Turkey. Turkish police rained more than a hundred thousand tear gas canisters on its own citizens as they exercised their basic rights of freedom of expression and assembly. Hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals across the globe raised their voices against the abuses.

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How U.S. Representatives Are Defending Prisoners of Conscience

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

Last week, the Defending Freedoms project launched a Week of Action in which U.S. Representatives nationwide spoke out to highlight and give voice to political prisoners being held or detained around the world for expressing their views.

Members of Congress “adopted” prisoners of conscience and stood in solidarity with them with a commitment to highlight their cases and push for their release, as well as for an end to the human rights abuses they had been subjected to.

These individuals have been imprisoned because of who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. As a result, they are prevented from enjoying the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The Defending Freedoms project was kick-started by Representatives Wolf and McGovern adopting the initiative’s first two prisoners of conscience – Gao Zhisheng of China and Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab. In late 2012, Congress’ nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA to create the Defending Freedoms initiative as a way to raise awareness and support for human rights and religious freedom by focusing on human rights defenders, political prisoners, and those who have been unjustly imprisoned around the world.

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The Future of Human Rights in Iran Under President-Elect Hassan Rouhani

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

Iran’s challenges are not few, from job creation and stopping inflation to improving foreign relations. Most presidential candidates in 2013 ran on such platforms. However, there was a key issue that was not directly addressed in their political vernacular: human rights.

While many jubilant Iranians and a hopeful international community are touting president-elect Hassan Rouhani as a reformist because of his promise to ease restrictions at home, free political prisoners, and to offer more transparency for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, it should not be ignored that he remains, nevertheless, among those select few candidates approved to run by Iran’s Guardian Council.

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Who Wants to Kill Honduran Journalist Héctor Longino Becerra?

Hector Longino Becerra LanzaIf you care about the crucial role of human rights defenders as much as Amnesty International, you want to know the answer to this question. Longino Bacerra is the Executive Director of the Committee for Free Expression, C-Libre. On April 20, an anonymous caller warned him, “I lead a campaign to kill you, your mum, your dad, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your friends and your friends’ friends. If they are dead, I will revive them and kill them again, did you hear me?”

Unlike Amnesty, the Honduran government has not demonstrated interest in identifying and punishing those behind attacks on journalists. In its 2012 report on conditions in Honduras, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) indicated that the government has not solved 80% of the cases of journalists murder in the nation. 15 of these murders took place since the 2009 coup. Last month, the CPJ reported an attempt on the life of Honduran television journalist Fidelina Sandoval.

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Department of State Human Rights Reports: The Resource That Washington Ignores

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to how the 2013 Human Rights Reports were the foundation of U.S. foreign policy and a statement to the world that the U.S. is watching to make sure that foreign governments protect the human rights of their citizens (Photo Credit: Mladen  Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to how the 2013 Human Rights Reports is the foundation of U.S. foreign policy and a statement to the world that the U.S. is watching to make sure foreign governments protect the human rights of their citizens (Photo Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

At long last, the 2013 country reports documenting global human rights trends has been released by the U.S. Department of State.

This year’s report, which was first produced during the Carter administration, is as important for what it does not say – or perhaps how it says it – as it is for what it says. In looking back at events in 2012, the report highlights several alarming trends, first what can only be described as a growing assault on civil society and human rights defenders.

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