Nabeel Rajab: Why Did the U.S. State Department Drag Its Feet?

Nabeel Rajab

Nabeel Rajab

On August 16th, Bahraini political activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to three years in jail for his peaceful role in protests critical of Bahrain’s monarchy.  He had already been in prison since July 9th, when he was convicted of libel after sending a tweet that criticized Bahrain’s Prime Minister.

But despite all of this, the US State Department did not publicly call on its military ally to release Nabeel Rajab until after his three year sentence had already been handed down.

Why did the US State Department wait so long to come to Nabeel Rajab’s defense?

There were plenty of missed opportunities along the way. One such moment was on August 1st, when Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner testified (see pg 16) at a congressional hearing focused on Bahrain.  In his written testimony (pg 4), Assistant Secretary Posner called on the Government of Bahrain to “drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression and freedom of assembly.”


Last Day to Get Your Representative to Help the Women of Atenco!

Women of Atenco

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Help us reach our goal of 50 Congress Members’ signatures on a Congressional sign-on letter for the women of Atenco by this Friday!  Representatives Keith Ellison and Tammy Baldwin have sponsored a letter that will be sent to the Mexican authorities to demand that justice is upheld for the women of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico.  We currently have around 42 Representatives’ signatures, so please encourage yours to sign on to the letter so that we can have a greater impact on the Mexican authorities!

The women of Atenco were sexually assaulted and tortured by police officers over four years ago following protests in the local town square, but no one has been held accountable for this injustice.  Despite a report issued by the federal Attorney General’s office which recommended the prosecution of 34 state police officers, and a statement released by the Supreme Court that affirmed that human rights abuses did occur in Atenco, the authorities have not prosecuted anyone for the crimes against these women.

We believe that right now is a perfect opportunity for us to pressure Mexican officials to prosecute those guilty of the crimes. Two weeks ago, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that 12 activists from the Atenco protests in May 2006 be released because they had never been granted a fair trial. These activists had been arrested for allegedly kidnapping police officers during the protests, but the charges against them and their sentences were unjust.  While Amnesty International welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision, we must continue to pressure the authorities to hold the police officers and judicial officials responsible for the crimes during and after the protests to account.  Simply freeing wrongfully-imprisoned activists is not enough—those responsible for crimes of torture, sexual assault, and misuse of the judicial system must be prosecuted!  Let’s take advantage of this timing to remind the Mexican authorities that they have a responsibility to uphold the human rights of their citizens.

Please take action today by asking your representative to sign the Congressional letter!  Call the Congressional switchboard at 202 224-3121 and ask for your representative, or take action online! The letter will be closed on Friday, so please take action now!

"What went on here?" : U.S. Lawmakers Assess the Damage in Gaza

In the first congressional visit since Hamas was elected in 2006, Representative Brian Baird from Washington, Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota and Senator John Kerry visited Gaza yesterday.  They witnessed and reported the devastation of the population and the dire need of humanitarian assistance.  Rep.  Ellison, Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee member and the first Muslim congress member, stated that:

People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in – Rep. Ellison.

Aid is slowed by the blockade as Palestinians rebuild.

Aid is slowed by the blockade as Palestinians rebuild.

None of the men toured the area as representatives of the Obama administration and all refused to meet with Hamas, but they opened up a dialogue between American lawmakers and Gaza residents.  Rep. Baird “wanted to witness the situation on the ground” and helped Palestinian aid workers highlight the humanitarian crisis to the BBC.  Sen. Kerry, on the other hand, emphasized the problems with Hamas leadership, while touring a bombed out American school:

…Your political leadership needs to understand that any nation that has rockets coming into it over many years, threatening its citizens, is going to respond – Sen. Kerry.

As lawmakers balance the politics of Hamas and Israeli interests, the Palestinian people are left with the shocking humanitarian devastation, 5,000 home destroyed, 1,300 lives lost, and over 5,000 injured.  More pointedly, Rep. Braid describes:

The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental needs such as water, sewer, and electricity facilities have been hit and immobilized. Relief agencies, themselves, have been heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools; of entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching. What went on here? And what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words. – Rep. Baird.