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.
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.
Desperate for justice, after over a decade of indefinite detention, at least 100 detainees have gone on a massive hunger strike in protest. According to media reports, 21 of these detainees are being shackled and force-fed through tubes to keep them alive, against their wishes.
By Max White, Amnesty International USA Indonesia Country Specialist
Recently, Amnesty International released a comprehensive report, “Time to Face the Past,” documenting the disturbing failure by Indonesian governments, local and central, to establish the truth of what happened to victims of years of violence in the province of Aceh, Indonesia. The conflict left up to 30,000 people dead, many of them civilians; it is nearly eight years since the end of that conflict.
When President Obama came into office, he was encouraged to investigate and prosecute U.S. officials responsible for torture. In January 2009, the New York Times reported, “President-elect Barack Obama signaled in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the treatment of terrorism suspects.” He stated that, “…we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
UPDATE: On 4/30 President Obama again vowed to close Guantanamo. While we welcome this call words must be followed up by action, such as the steps below.
Sign our new petition telling President Obama and Congress that you support closing Guantanamo.
Imagine you’re Shaker Aamer, locked up without charge for 11 years, thousands of miles from home, despite being cleared, for years, to leave. The UK government has repeatedly intervened on your behalf in an effort to reunite you with your wife and children in London. But you’re still held. You go on hunger strike in an attempt to draw attention to your plight. You have told your lawyers that you and your fellow inmates are being beaten, deprived of sleep and punished just for protesting. And all this is being done by the United States government, whose president promised four years and three months ago to shut Guantánamo for good. Just imagine.
Two months into the most recent hunger strike at Guantánamo and over three years after the deadline for closing the facility, President Obama has barely said a peep about his broken promise. But ignoring the problem at Guantánamo is simply unacceptable. The US government is obligated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other treaties and binding laws, to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. That’s a point made last week by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in this strong statement.
As High Commissioner Pillay points out, yes, those responsible for the September 11 attacks must be brought to justice, and the government has a duty and responsibility to ensure safety. But the US can’t exempt itself from its human rights obligations in doing either of these things. That’s why instead of Guantánamo, the criminal justice and law enforcement systems in the US – available from day one – should be used. These systems are far from perfect and must themselves be reformed, but they are quipped to ensure justice for the 9/11 attacks and address any security risks posed by those held at Guantánamo.
After weeks of intense negotiations at the UN Conference, including a bitter roadblock put up by Iran, Syria and North Korea, a final treaty was adopted! The treaty prohibits arms transfers that would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. We are now closer than ever 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 will be used to commit serious violations of human rights.”
More importantly, we’re closer than ever to winning the fight that’s been 20 years in the making! While this is a big win, there is still a lot of work to do. The treaty is adopted but “asleep” – it needs to be signed and ratified by 50 countries before it will enter into force. Amnesty International USA will demand that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress take this important stand for human rights by signing and then ratifying this landmark treaty.
Former child soldier, now rapper, Emmanuel Jal has an important message for President Obama that can save lives. Jal is speaking out and joining thousands of activists around the world in supporting a treaty that would end the unregulated flow of weapons globally.
Every minute, at least one person dies as a result of armed violence and conflict. There is currently no universal piece of legislation to regulate and monitor the international trade of arms. Beginning this week, world leaders from roughly 150 countries have gathered in New York to negotiate such a treaty that could keep weapons out of the hands of bad guys likely to use them to rape, recruit child soldiers or commit other severe human rights abuses.
Emmanuel Jal is a hip-hop artist and humanitarian, as well as a former child solider.
Below is an open letter from hip-hop artist, activist and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal, urging President Barack Obama to push for a strong Arms Trade Treaty at the U.N. conference this month. This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.
In Sudan and around the world, children are forced into warfare. Many end up as child soldiers, forced to take lives and continue the cycle of violence that they have been born into. Child soldiers are found today in as many as 20 countries.
I was one of them. I was fortunate enough to have escaped to Kenya and found another life through music. But the lives of many children are cut short before they can escape. The most difficult part of this situation is that these children do not have a choice when they are introduced, often after they have been orphaned, to a perpetual war zone and raised by the harsh reality of the violence around them.
Monday in Washington, D.C. the National Mall was packed with hundreds of thousands of eager people who witnessed President Barack Obama sworn in for his second term. During his speech, President Obama reminded us of our “vow to move forward together” on the challenges we face together as a country. Today, we say to Congress: time for you to move together to pass an inclusive Violence Against Women Act!
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have just announced that the two chambers are jointly reintroducing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a law that since 1994 has sent the message that violence against women is criminal and that has helped to ensure that the millions of women who experience domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking receive the protection and support they need.
At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.
As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.
Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Activists protest former President Bush's visit to Canada
In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post last Friday by former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen asked why Amnesty International had not called for the arrest of President Obama for war crimes and claimed that a double standard is at work.