Our Response to President Vladimir Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images).

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images).

In his New York Times opinion piece regarding Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin argues against the recently proposed U.S. military strike on Syria. Amnesty International neither condemns nor condones armed intervention in Syria. However, some of President Putin’s arguments obscure Russia’s own role in blocking a resolution to the human rights crisis in Syria.

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WARNING: This Film Will Keep You Up at Night

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'An Act of Killing' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair

“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”

So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.

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5 Reasons President Obama Should Release Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier was a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), an activist group that was involved in promoting the rights of “traditionalist” Indians during a period of intense conflict in the 1970s. On June 26, 1975, during a confrontation involving AIM members on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were shot dead.

Leonard Peltier was convicted of their murders in 1977 and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Leonard Peltier does not deny that he was present during the incident. However, he has always denied killing the agents as was alleged by the prosecution at his trial. Here are 5 reasons he should be released:

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7 Recommendations to President Obama on Guantanamo, Torture & Drones

On May 23rd, 2013, President Obama made his first major speech on national security since 2009 (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

On May 23rd, 2013, President Obama made his first major speech on national security since 2009 (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

Today, Amnesty International released in-depth analysis of President Obama’s speech on national security: “Words, War, and the Rule of Law. President Obama revisits counter-terrorism policy, but human rights still missing.”

Our report makes clear that, while there were encouraging signs in the speech, the continuing absence of international human rights law from the US government’s counterterrorism framework remains a grave cause for concern.

Here are seven key recommendations from the report:

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Thirteen Reasons for Obama to Sign the Arms Trade Treaty, Five Days Before the Signing Date!

Demonstrators from Amnesty International chant outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as they call for strong support for a comprehensive global Arms Trade Treaty   (Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images).

Demonstrators from Amnesty International chant outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as they call for strong support for a comprehensive global Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images).

On June 3rd, the historic UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will open for signature. This treaty is the first global agreement to link the protection of human rights with the trade in conventional weapons, including the pernicious small arms and light weapons (SALW) that contribute to abuses in conflict and non conflict – throughout the world.

Why should President Obama be first in line to sign the ATT? Here are 13 reasons.

The Arms Trade Treaty:

1. Gives UN Security Council Embargoes Added Power

The ATT will help to fill a critical gap in international law by establishing that it is illegal to transfer weapons to countries that are subject to a United Nations Security Council embargo. While this is already an implicit principle of international law, the ATT reaffirms  and reinforces this critical principle.

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Is U.S. Trying To Gut Arms Trade Treaty?

arms trade infographic facts

The US is trying to strip the Arms Trade Treaty of critical human rights protections.

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 Nate Smith, Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations Observer

Update: THOUSANDS of your calls have been pouring into the White House since Monday.  Thank you and keep it up! Apparently, we’re partially responsible for jamming up White House lines, so please try this new number in case you’re having trouble getting through: 202-456-1414…24 hours left – let them hear you!

Late on Friday, the latest draft of the Arms Trade Treaty was shared publicly.  It’s not looking good.

Here’s what it boils down to: Will world leaders take the necessary steps now to prevent sending weapons to countries where they will likely be used for torture, summary executions, and other human rights abuses?  Or will they allow business as usual and wait until even more staggering numbers of civilians have been killed until they finally decide to stop arms shipments to those who are targeting civilians?

The second option is called the “body bag” approach.  The US government is among those who actually think this is a good idea.  It wants to allow critical human rights protections to be kept out of the treaty. These would require countries to exercise some due diligence in making sure they aren’t transferring weapons to places where they know they’ll be used in extrajudicial executions, disappearances, or torture – a global “background check” for arms transfers

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Child Soldiers: Will the Real Obama Please Stand Up?

Child soldier with adults, Sanghe, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2002.

Child soldier with adults, Sanghe, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2002.

By Angela T. Chang, Advocate, Crisis Prevention and Response Team, Amnesty International USA

When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family—girls my daughters’ age—runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.
– US President Barack Obama, September 2012

Despite these strong words by President Obama against the use and recruitment of child soldiers a few months ago, he got reprimanded earlier this week for falling flat in delivering on tangible actions to address this issue.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a new report on Tuesday, calling out the U.S. and the Obama administration for failing to adhere to its international human rights obligations by continuing to waive sanctions on military assistance, per the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act, to countries that are known to recruit and use child soldiers – a clear violation of children’s rights and a war crime if the children are under the age of fifteen. Yes, you read that right. Seems confusing and backwards? That’s because it is.

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