Torture Is Not the Answer

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Still from 'Waiting For The Guards ' shows simulated torture by the CIA

Still from ‘Waiting For The Guards ‘ shows simulated torture by the CIA

Too little, and much too late. CIA Director John Brennan this week declared that the CIA would refuse to engage in waterboarding in the future, even if ordered to do so.

This was the latest in a recent string of headline-grabbing proclamations from current and former U.S. officials insisting that, if faced with the dilemma between following orders or rejecting torture, they would reject torture.

As welcome as these promises are, they ring hollow. That’s because the same U.S. intelligence community was already faced with that exact dilemma, and they got it wrong. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is the U.S. State Department Understating Human Rights Abuses?

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Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian human right activist with chained hands during a protest against torture in police stations. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Following last week’s release of the 2016 Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Amnesty International USA conducted a review of the reports and offered an analysis of the reports.

The annual, Congressionally-mandated reports are meant to highlight abuses such as human rights defenders being killed, detained or hounded in to exile, along with draconian restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, often imposed in the name of national security.

Unfortunately, this year’s report continues the practice of using diplomatic language to understate human rights violations. The report also continues to bury some cases of abuse by failing to refer to them in the summary section of the report. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Road to the AGM

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March 24, 2016 – AGM Road Trip Playlist 1

The road to Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting and Human Rights Conference technically began in April of 2015, when the AIUSA Board of Directors chose Miami as the host city for our 2016 conference. The literal road trip to the conference began on March 24, when events staff and interns packed the boxes of materials and equipment that we will need to pull off a successful AGM. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Beaten, Arrested & Facing a Decade Behind Bars

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On March 10, 2015 hundreds of student protestors were at a standstill near the city of Letpadan in Myanmar.

They had reached the eighth day of a standoff between largely peaceful activists marching for academic freedom, and the police forces who were blocking their path when, suddenly, things came to a head. Police began beating students violently, including those who had fallen to the ground. Some tried to flee, and hundreds were arrested. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s the State of Human Rights Around the World?

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In 2015, Amnesty International investigated the human rights situation in 160 countries and territories worldwide. Progress continued in some areas, but many people and communities faced grave human rights abuses.

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At least 113 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression and the press. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“My Heart Is Exhausted”: A Mother’s Story of Death Row in Saudi Arabia

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Ali al-Nimr was just 17 when he was arrested on 14 February 2012 a few months after taking part in anti-government rallies. He was sentenced to death, despite being a minor when he was arrested and following a deeply unfair trial based on “confessions” he says were obtained through torture. He now awaits his execution. His mother, Nassra al-Ahmed, tells their story:

When I first heard the verdict to execute my little boy, I felt as if a thunderbolt was hitting my head. It rendered me bereaved and rid of the most cherished and beautiful things I have.

His absence has exhausted my heart. My eyes shed tears automatically, yearning for him. I am overtaken by missing his angelic features. His smile never leaves my mind and memories prompt me to weep each time I see one of his pictures. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

When Life is Disposable: Muslim Bodies as Precarious in the War on Terror

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(Photo: Justin Norman)

By Dr. Maha Hilal, Executive Director at National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

“[W]hat counts as a livable life and a grievable death?”

(Judith Butler, 2004, p. xv)

The Muslim body in the so-called War on Terror has been treated as if it is without value and inconsequential. Muslim bodies have been detained, extradited, tortured, and unlawfully killed. Muslim lives have been drowned in a sea of policy and rhetoric that justifies the loss of lives as “collateral damage” in the name of protecting U.S. security.  Methods which would otherwise be considered brutal and inconsistent with the U.S. government claims to uphold democracy and human rights position Muslims as less than human, and in this way their lives and their deaths are treated as inconsequential. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What do you know about your batteries?

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By Dr. Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt, Director, Human Rights in Business Program, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law 

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They are in your mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras, and even power electric cars. But did you know that cobalt is a key component of those batteries? Where does cobalt come from? More than half of the world’s cobalt is supplied by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC and conflict minerals probably rings a bell. It’s well-known that the global trade in the 3Ts (tin, tungsten, tantalum) and gold has financed abusive armed groups in the DRC and fueled conflict. While cobalt is not a conflict mineral, artisanal miners mine cobalt in the southern part of the country under extremely dangerous and abusive work conditions, which are similar to the conditions in eastern DRC where conflict minerals are extracted. A new Amnesty report, This is What We Die For, traces the cobalt supply chain from the artisanal miners to the big brands selling electronic devices, and exposes all the governments and companies along the way that have turned a blind eye to the human rights violations suffered by the miners. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Child Labor Behind Smartphones Exposed

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Cobalt Mining in the DRC

Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child laborers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published today.

The report, This is What We Die For: Human Rights Abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Power the Global Trade in Cobalt, traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children as young as seven and adults work in perilous conditions.

“The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” said Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

15 Powerful Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

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Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to the crowds at Montgomery.  Photo: Stephen Somerstein

Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to the crowds at Montgomery. Photo: Stephen Somerstein

Today we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights activist and champion of human rights, justice and equality. His powerful words continue to inspire, teach and shape individuals in the US and around the world.

1. “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

2. “We want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now.”

3. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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