Save Abdullah From the Ultimate Human Rights Violation

Abdullah al-Qahtani

Abdullah al-Qahtani

By Samir Goswami, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaign

Last week, we issued an Urgent Action to the disturbing news that Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani was at imminent risk of execution.

Abdullah was convicted of robbery and murder under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law. While in custody, he was viciously beaten, burned and asphyxiated into “confessing” to being a member of al-Qaida. Four of Abdullah’s six co-defendants were executed last week and for a time, it seemed as though Abdullah was next.

But then, an amazing thing happened. We emailed a petition out to our Amnesty members and within 24 hours, received over 30,000 signatures.

Abdullah is still alive and pressure from activists like you likely helped spare his life. Today, Abdullah’s petition has over 40,000 signatures. But make no mistake – his execution is imminent. Abdullah’s attorney urges continued vigilance:

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Congress Seeks to Improve Prison Conditions Around the World

For years, we’ve documented horrendous conditions in prisons all around the world in our Annual Report. Detainees are often held in inhumane prison conditions, including overcrowding and inadequate food, water and medical care, and are often subjected to other forms of ill-treatment and torture. Family members and legal counsel are often barred from visiting, and juveniles can be detained with adults. Every day, prisoners around the world die in prison due to ill-treatment, in contravention of international human rights standards.

But I’m happy to report that the US Congress is finally paying attention. Just a little over two weeks ago, Senators Patrick Leahy and Sam Brownback and Congressmen Bill Delahunt and Joseph Pitts introduced the Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act of 2010 (S.3798 in the Senate and H.R.6153 in the House of Representatives).

On any given day, millions of people are languishing in foreign prisons, many awaiting trial not yet having been formally charged or proven guilty of anything, deprived of their freedom for years longer than they could have been sentenced to prison if convicted. Others convicted of crimes, often after woefully unfair trials, including for nothing more than peacefully expressing political or religious beliefs or defending human rights. Regardless of their status they have one thing in common. They are deprived of the most basic rights and necessities–safe water, adequate food, essential medical care, personal safety, and dignity.

Anyone who has been inside one of these facilities, or seen photographs or the press reports of what they are like, understands that I am talking about the mistreatment of human beings in ways that are reminiscent of the Dark Ages.

- Senator Patrick Leahy, introducing the bill on September 16, 2010

The bill would help ensure that countries receiving US assistance do not operate prisons and other detention facilities under inhumane conditions and would provide assistance to countries making significant efforts to improve conditions in their prisons. Most importantly, the bill would mandate that the US government reprogram, restructure or even decrease US assistance to countries unwilling to improve prison conditions.

So take action today by asking your Members of Congress to co-sponsor the Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act. Your voice will help ensure that this Congress takes action on this important issue and that we don’t have to wait any longer to see improvements in prison conditions around the world.