Reflections on Boston

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(Photo Credit: Dominic Chavez/EPA/Landov).

(Photo Credit: Dominic Chavez/EPA/Landov).

My cousin lives in Boston and I was worried that he was somehow affected by the attacks. It immediately brought me back to 9/11 and the memory of how powerless I felt watching the Twin Towers fall. Luckily, my cousin was fine. But it wasn’t true for others. The grief of losing family and friends is unbearable.

Deliberate attacks against civilians by individuals or armed groups are always human rights abuses. Amnesty International condemns the attacks in Boston in the strongest terms. The victims have a right to remedy, including to see those responsible brought to justice in a fair trial that respects human rights and reaffirms the rule of law.

The Obama administration is right to prosecute the suspect in criminal court and ignore those calling for denial of human rights and civil liberties. The trial must be fair, the suspect must be treated humanely and we must not let fear-mongering and discrimination flourish. We all want justice and security, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

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Arms Trade Treaty Consensus Blocked, But Success Only Delayed

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By Susan Waltz and Nate Smith, Amnesty International USA’s Military, Security and Police Transfers Coordination Group

Yesterday, states that gathered to negotiate a text for an Arms Trade Treaty fell short of their goal. The rules of the negotiating conference required consensus on the text of the treaty, and this consensus was blocked by Iran, Syria and North Korea. This development need not be seen as a failure, however – as a delegate from the U.K. put it, this is only delayed success. Soon, the UN General Assembly will take up the treaty, likely in current form, and subject it to a majority vote. It will almost certainly pass this vote, at which point it will be open for signatures and ratification, and it will enter into force at the 50th ratification.

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Cautious Optimism for Final Arms Trade Treaty

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This post is part of a special series on the Arms Trade Treaty. From March 18-28, world leaders from more than 150 countries are gathering for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. An Amnesty International delegation with representatives from every world region is participating and will be pressing leaders to agree to a strong treaty that upholds international human rights law.

By Susan Waltz, Amnesty Board Member and Arms Trade Treaty specialist

We’re down to the wire with the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations.  The next 24 hours will determine if the world is at long last ready to agree on standards for the lawful international transfer of lethal weapons.    The League of Nations tried twice to put some humanitarian limits on arms deals, but both efforts collapsed.  This time it could be different…really.

Amnesty activists rally outside the White House in support of a strong Arms Trade Treaty.

Amnesty activists rally outside the White House in support of a strong Arms Trade Treaty.

A final draft of the treaty was released today, and there are good reasons for cautious optimism – with an emphasis on caution.  The final draft doesn’t contain everything we hoped for, but it’s a vast improvement over the version in play last July.   Among other things, the draft treaty now clarifies that it will be a breach of international law to supply weapons when the supplier knows at the time of authorization that they will be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, attacks against civilians and grave war crimes. Small but significant changes have edged the text closer to the Golden Rule we’ve been advocating for more than ten years:  “Governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

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Behind the Scenes at the UN Arms Trade Treaty Conference

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This post is part of a special series on the Arms Trade Treaty. From March 18-28, world leaders from more than 150 countries are gathering for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. An Amnesty International delegation with representatives from every world region is participating and will be pressing leaders to agree to a strong treaty that upholds international human rights law.

By Alberto Estévez, Advocacy Coordinator on the Arms Trade Treaty, International Secretariat of Amnesty International

It’s crunch time for human rights.

On Friday evening, the second draft of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was made public in the midst of the UN Final Conference on the ATT. The negotiations continued Monday and Tuesday and the final text will be made public sometime today.

The key issue for Amnesty International is whether the Treaty will have a preventive approach to prohibit an arms transfer when the State authorizing it knows that they will be used to commit atrocities. In legal jargon, this means whether it will prevent human rights violations constituting crimes under international law, i.e., extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture. This is what we in Amnesty International call the “Golden Rule.”

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What Needs to Happen Next on Drones?

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President Obama should publicly disclose the secret drone memos with only the redactions truly necessary, as well as the facts about who has been killed. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Obama administration must follow the law on lethal force (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s been a hectic 24 hours on the Obama administration’s use of drones and lethal force. As I write this, Senator Paul has accepted Attorney General Holder’s answer about drone strikes on US soil and the Senate has confirmed John Brennan—one of the architects of the drone killing program—as Director of the CIA. There’s a lot to unpack about what’s happened and where things stand now.

But I want to focus on what should happen next to make sure that no person—US citizen or anyone else—is killed outside the bounds of law with a drone or other weapons.

1) The Obama administration must follow existing law on the use of lethal force.

Senator Durbin said yesterday that the administration is interested in working with Congress to pass legislation, but that misses a key point, namely, that the law governing any state’s use of lethal force—whether with a drone or a gun or most other weapons—already exists: international human rights law and, in the exceptional circumstances where it applies, international humanitarian law as well. The US government must follow the law.

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