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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Five years ago today, dozens of women were beaten, raped, and tortured sexually and psychologically by policeafter 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.
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.
For two weeks now, unarmed indigenous activists in Easter Island – or Rapa Nui – have occupied public (read Chilean) property, claiming ancestral rights to a land that has seen colonization from Peruvian slave traders to French missionaries to the island’s conversion to a sheep farm by a Scottish-owned Chilean company until 1953. As a result, the Rapanui people have been forced to what is now the only inhabitance on the island: Hanga Roa.
When I was in Hanga Roa in May 2010, I spotted a building with a hand-made sign: Rapa Nui Parliament. Outside the physically unassuming building I saw few visibly austere voices for independence for this tiny South Pacific island controlled by Chile. But media reports suggest otherwise:
After over four years of detention based on unjust convictions, twelve Mexican activists were ordered released last week following a ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court that admitted that the activists had never been granted a fair trial. They had been arrested for allegedly kidnapping police officers during protests in San Salvador Atenco in May 2006 during which police officers violently abused both men and women for their activism. While it is wonderful that Mexico’s judiciary has freed these twelve activists, much more still needs to be done for justice to be served in the events surrounding the Atenco protests.
“This welcome move by the Supreme Court shows that state prosecutors and judges in Mexico State relied on the denial of due process as well as illegal and fabricated evidence to secure the conviction and imprisonment of the accused,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s Mexico researcher.
Simply releasing the activists is not enough: Mexican authorities need to take their actions a step further and end impunity in their country by prosecuting the officers responsible for committing crimes against protestors in May 2006 along with those who misused the justice system to secure convictions of the twelve protestors.
One of Amnesty International USA’s Special Focus cases is centered around the female victims of police abuse during the Atenco protests (see the Women of Atenco case page). Federal authorities actually conducted an investigation that resulted in a list of 34 names of police officers who were suspected of being responsible for the sexual assault and torture of the women in the aftermath of the protests, but more than four years after the events, neither these officers, nor any of the senior officials who failed to stop or prevent the abuses, have been held accountable.
Hopefully, the release of the twelve activists is just the beginning of the government’s acceptance of responsibility for the case, and the beginning of the end for the impunity that has pervaded Mexico’s justice system. Amnesty International will continue to pressure the federal government of Mexico to protect the human rights of its citizens, and this necessarily includes that Mexico ends impunity for police officers.
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.