“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear.”

Sombath Somphone

“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear,” wife of disappeared Lao agriculture specialist tells audience.

How does one suddenly disappear from a busy city street?

In 2005, in recognition of his community leadership, Sombath Somphone won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s Nobel Prize.  Sombath has played a key role in supporting the development of civil society in Laos.  Sombath founded the Participatory Development Training Centre in 1996 to promote education, leadership skills and sustainable development in Laos.

In 2012, seven years after winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, Sombath disappeared. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Deadly Force Didn’t End With Michael Brown

Memorial for Michael Brown on August 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Memorial for Michael Brown on August 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Since­ Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Missouri, we have been bombarded with images across the country of police officers using unnecessary or excessive force. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#DearObama: Use Your State of the Union to Move from Words to Actions on Race and Policing

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Dear Mr. President,

I call on you to use your State of the Union address to recommit to human rights standards in the criminal justice system, especially as it affects communities of color in the U.S.

The demand for an inclusive dialogue on race and policing has taken center stage following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Ezell Ford and Tamir Rice and the lack of accountability for the police officers responsible. Community members and leaders are calling for a comprehensive examination of police procedures and practices which directly or indirectly facilitate hostile interactions between police and the communities they are entrusted to protect.   SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s behind the arrests in Turkey?

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

A wave of arrests Sunday morning shook Turkey and made headline news throughout the world.  The arrests, which are part of a broad campaign against the Gülen Movement, were hardly a surprise.  A twitter user had leaked information about it some days in advance, it was preceded by some typically fire-breathing speeches by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office issued a press release before the arrests were made.  In total 27 people were arrested, including a number of journalists and media figures.

Along with other human rights organizations, Amnesty has called on Turkish authorities to release those arrested yesterday unless authorities can produce “credible evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offense.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

This is My Real Life. This is My Home. I Matter.

Tense Ferguson, Missouri Awaits Grand Jury Findings In Shooting Of Michael Brown

 

Suffocating smoke fills the night sky; sonic booms shake the black concrete streets while intense screams of men, women and children echo into the air like a blockbuster flick. But this isn’t a Michael Bay film. This a Monday night, August 18th, 2014, in Ferguson, and this is real life. This is my real life. The smoke that fills the air is tear gas, the sonic booms are from armored vehicles approaching protesters and executing gas bombs. The men, women and children are my friends and neighbors, residents of Saint Louis, Missouri, all of us in the streets for over a week demanding accountability.

A deep voice echoes from the PA on top of one of the armored cars: “please go back to your homes.” But THIS IS MY HOME. This is where I was born, fished with my grandpa in January-Wabash Park as a kid, graduated from Hazelwood East, wear my St. Louis Cardinals hat proudly. So when I’m being told to go home what exactly does that mean? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ferguson: Today marks a pivotal moment for US human rights

Imatter

Today, we learned that a grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown — an unarmed 18-year-old — in August.

The community response to Mike Brown’s death, and the response that is likely still to come, mark a pivotal moment in the human rights movement and in U.S. history.

It’s a moment of passion, of frustration, and of activism.

It’s within this moment that officials in Ferguson and throughout the United States must stand up to ensure that each individual’s human rights — including the right to freely express themselves in the form of peaceful protest — are respected, protected and fulfilled. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Internment in the US? Not on Our Watch

©PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

A few weeks ago the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was condemned by Senator Reid as so draconian that he could not bring it to the floor. Now it’s back and with an authoritarian vengeance.

The bill has the necessary but perpetually complex objective of outlining the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense.

This time around, a dubious, ill-informed, and unwise “agreement” has been reached between Senators Levin and McCain to include detention provisions that threaten to bring back internment for the first time since the McCarthy era at the height of the red scare.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Relief Tempered By Sadness: The World Is Still A Dangerous Place To Be LGBT

© Getty Images

It’s been a week of incredible ups and downs for LGBT people around the world. We hardly had time to feel joy for the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Brazil, when we learned that the Ugandan parliament was getting ready to vote on a law that would have outlawed homosexuality and imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

Amnesty International and many others called on the Ugandan parliament to reject the bill, and we all felt great relief today when the parliament dissolved without debating or voting on the bill. It’s entirely possible that the bill could be reintroduced when new members of parliament are sworn in next week, but at least it wasn’t passed today, as had been feared.

But the feeling of relief is mixed with sadness, because LGBT people continue to be killed because of who they are in many countries, regardless of what the laws say. On May 4th, Quetzalcoatl Leija Herrera, an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights in Mexico, was attacked and killed when he was walking home in the evening, in what appears to have been a homophobic attack. Police are investigating, but as so often happens in these kinds of cases, their inquiries are strangely focused almost exclusively on Herrera’s friends in the LGBT community.

This isn’t the first instance of police being less than sympathetic toward LGBT people that Amnesty International has documented: in 2009 we issued an Urgent Action on three transgender women in Honduras, two of whom were killed, and one of whom was beaten by police.

So while it’s great that we can celebrate progress like the legalization of same-sex unions in Brazil, it’s clear there’s a long way to go, and a lot more action needed, before the world will truly be a safe place to be LGBT.

5th Anniversary Of Police Assaults On Women In Mexico

Rally for the women of Atenco © AI

Five years ago today, dozens of women were beaten, raped, and tortured sexually and psychologically by police after being detained following protests by a local peasant organization in San Salvador Atenco, near Mexico City. Despite years of legal battles, these brave survivors are still waiting for justice. None of the officials responsible for their abuse have been held accountable.

The good news is, we have a fresh opportunity to make a difference for the women of Atenco. Mexican President Felipe Calderón recently appointed a new Attorney General, Marisela Morales. As Mexico’s first-ever female Attorney General, with a history of being tough against organized crime, she is uniquely positioned to shake things up and set a new tone by standing against impunity. We need to tell her to finally ensure that the perpetrators won’t be allowed to get away with these violent abuses any longer.

Help us tell Mexico’s Attorney General that the Women of Atenco deserve to see justice done!

Will North Carolina Halt Executions?

Following the release of a devastatingly critical report on the shoddy work of North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime labs, Seth Edwards, the president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys today said he “supported a moratorium on the execution of any death-row inmates whose cases include evidence from the State Bureau of Investigations crime labs.”

The fallout from the audit of the SBI, combined with the fact that 152 death row inmates in NC are now challenging their death sentences under the new Racial Justice Act, paints a picture of criminal justice and capital punishment systems in chaos.  And that may be a good thing.  At least the Tar Heel state (unlike some states)  has been somewhat willing to look critically at its systems of justice.   

But this bout of self-examination should only be the beginning.  The state’s investigation of the SBI was not comprehensive (only the serology lab was looked into; the SBI’s performance in other areas – fingerprints, DNA , ballistics, drug analysis, documents and digital – has yet to be reviewed).  The Raleigh News and Observer’s recent hard hitting series provides some idea of what might be found if all those rocks were turned over.  To their credit, NC DAs have demanded a full audit of the SBI.  

Because executing someone wrongfully would be the ultimate injustice, it is imperative that NC take a second look at all death row cases, including those who have already been executed.   Seth Edwards’ suggestion for a partial moratorium is fine, but really all executions should be halted.  And really, they should be halted permanently.