5 Reasons President Obama Should Speak Out For Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, flashes the sign for victory in solidarity with Saudi women campaigning for women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia (Photo Credit: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images).

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, flashes the sign for victory in solidarity with Saudi women campaigning for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia (Photo Credit: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images).

President Barack Obama has an opportunity this month to lead from behind on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia – behind, that is, a woman driver.

The president is visiting the repressive Gulf kingdom this month. In a letter delivered to the White House, Amnesty International is calling on him to take a stand on women’s rights by meeting with the female leaders of a campaign to end the ban against women driving. We are also calling on him to have a woman Secret Service driver himself during his visit.

Take action to demand the president support women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

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What Needs to Happen Next on Drones?

President Obama should publicly disclose the secret drone memos with only the redactions truly necessary, as well as the facts about who has been killed. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Obama administration must follow the law on lethal force (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s been a hectic 24 hours on the Obama administration’s use of drones and lethal force. As I write this, Senator Paul has accepted Attorney General Holder’s answer about drone strikes on US soil and the Senate has confirmed John Brennan—one of the architects of the drone killing program—as Director of the CIA. There’s a lot to unpack about what’s happened and where things stand now.

But I want to focus on what should happen next to make sure that no person—US citizen or anyone else—is killed outside the bounds of law with a drone or other weapons.

1) The Obama administration must follow existing law on the use of lethal force.

Senator Durbin said yesterday that the administration is interested in working with Congress to pass legislation, but that misses a key point, namely, that the law governing any state’s use of lethal force—whether with a drone or a gun or most other weapons—already exists: international human rights law and, in the exceptional circumstances where it applies, international humanitarian law as well. The US government must follow the law.

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Drones, Filibusters, Kill Lists and More

Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Yesterday,the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed a new director of the CIA — John Brennan. He is a controversial figure, and as you read this Senator Rand Paul and a bi-partisan group of Senators may still be attempting to filibuster the final Senate vote on his nomination. (You can check here.)

What’s the controversy? John Brennan is one of the chief architects of the administration’s drone killing policy, which has reportedly resulted in 4,700 people killed so far, according to Senator Lindsey Graham.

Read that number again. 4,700 human beings killed. Call us crazy, but don’t you think the world — including the thousands of people and families directly affected by drone attacks worldwide – deserves to know on what basis the Obama administration claims the right to kill people?

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The World’s Biggest Gun Show

National Resistance Army child soldier poses with his kalashnikov.  (Photo credit: Dominique Aubert/AFP/Getty Images)

National Resistance Army child soldier poses with his kalashnikov. (Photo credit: Dominique Aubert/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), which concluded last week in Abu Dhabi, bills itself as one of the biggest arms bazaars in the world. However, among the more than 1,100 companies exhibiting at IDEX were manufacturers whose products have made it a lot easier for bad guys to wreak havoc. There are currently no global checks in place to keep guns out of the wrong hands

From March 18-28, states will convene at the United Nations in New York to finalize a historic Arms Trade Treaty. We must make it clear that no more weapons can fall through gaping loopholes and into dangerous hands.

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The Children Left Out of Obama’s Inaugural Speech

Photo by Dominique Aubert/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Dominique Aubert/AFP/Getty Images

The United States is not the only country where children are facing an epidemic of gun violence. While in the U.S., we continue to grapple with the tragic reality of children who routinely face gun violence in their communities and children who increasingly are the targets of mass shootings, in other places around the world, we see the heartbreaking consequences of children who also face the daily horrors of armed conflict, many forced to become soldiers.

During Monday’s inaugural address, President Obama said:

“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

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Mad About the NDAA? Join the January 11 Protest in DC

close gitmo rallyLate last night, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law with provisions that restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and further impede closure of the prison. Furthermore, nothing was done to correct provisions in last year’s NDAA that further entrench indefinite military detention, unfair trials, and the U.S. government’s “global war” framework, in U.S. law.

The “global war” framework— which holds that the U.S. government is engaged in a global, pervasive, never-ending “war” with al-Qaeda and other vaguely defined groups and individuals—was first articulated by the Bush administration and has been embraced by the Obama administration.

Expressed in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and reaffirmed in the 2012 NDAA, this “global war” doctrine is used to justify everything from killings with drones to detention without charge at Guantanamo to renditions (still happening, according to a Washington Post report) to impunity for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearances.

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Breaking: Congress Passes 2013 NDAA, President Obama Must Veto

Protest at the White House against the prison at Guantanamo Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.

This is unacceptable, morally and legally. And it’s a reason why Amnesty International and 28 other human rights, religious and civil liberties organizations sent a letter calling on President Obama to veto the NDAA.

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Gaza Blockade: Still Operational, Still Violating Human Rights

gaza blockade white house

One of our postcard actions in front of the White house

This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House.  The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.

The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip.  The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.

As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment.  Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid.  While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.

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10 Years of Campaigning, Three Days Left to Change the World

arms trade treaty action at UN

Amadou Maiga from Mali, who has lost friends in conflict, spoke in front of a mock graveyard across from the United Nations which represents those killed by arms everyday around the world. (Control Arms Coalition/Andrew Kelly)

After 10 years of campaigning and three weeks of final negotiations, yesterday afternoon saw the belated delivery of a draft text for the Arms Trade Treaty. Governments are now in the midst of intense negotiations as they look to reach an agreement by Friday.

The draft includes a requirement that each government assess whether there is a substantial risk that an international arms transfer would be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, which is the “Golden Rule” we’ve long campaigned for. It would also ban transfers for the purpose of facilitating genocide or crimes against humanity.

In short, a strong Arms Trade Treaty will make it much harder to send arms to places like Syria where they will be used to harm civilians and violate their human rights.

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Nothing Justifies This

June 26th is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture and Amnesty International has launched a powerful new online video – “Hooded” – to mark the occasion.

Hooding is a practice that gets to the heart of the relationship between the torturer and his – or her – victim. The hooded victim is dehumanized – hooding deprives the victim of a face, of an identity – and dehumanization is almost always a precursor of abuse.

The anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson famously labeled dehumanization “the fifth horseman of the apocalypse”, an essential precursor to war, rape, pillage and genocide.

Hooding is disorientating. It is designed to restrict the victim’s ability to defend himself – or herself – from harm. It is also calculated to instill fear, a dread of the unknown, of the dark.

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