To mark the 100th day of the Guantanamo hunger strike, Amnesty International USA is holding a vigil outside the White House today with several other groups (Photo Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).
By Carrie Neff Maley, Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International USA
Today marks the 100th consecutive day that detainees at Guantanamo have been refusing food as part of a hunger strike that began in Camp 6 at the facility. According to a letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and signed by 50 attorneys representing detainees, the hunger strike which began on February 6, 2013, was initiated in response to,
“[W]idespread searches of detainees’ Qur’ans—perceived as religious desecration — as well as searches and confiscation of other personal items, including family letters and photographs, and legal mail, seemingly without provocation or cause.”
Both the hunger strike and the brutal practice of force feeding have become a symbol of the deprivation of human rights taking place at Guantanamo. Virtually every personal freedom has been stripped from the detainees, most of whom have not been charged with any crime and are not facing trial.
Guantanamo Bay has been the site of indefinite detention and numerous other violations of human rights since 2002. It is also, as Rolling Stone’sJohn Knefel calls it, “the site of a unique legal experiment that has no direct precedent in U.S. history.”
Egyptian satirist and television host Bassem Youssef surrounded by his supporters upon his arrival at the public prosecutor’s office in Cairo. Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered the arrest of Youssef over alleged insults to Islam and to President Mohamed Morsi, in the latest clampdown on critical media (Photo Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images).
“I am an American satirist, and Bassem Youssef is my hero,” Jon Stewart has said of his so-named Egyptian counterpart.
Bassem Youssef, whose show frequently pokes fun at Egyptian authorities and the use of religion for political purposes, found himself in the global spotlight after criminal charges were filed against him for his political satire. Jon Stewart highlighted the case on The Daily Show, TIME Magazine named Youssef one of the 100 Most Influential People of the year, and the Egyptian assault on free speech received international attention.
But Youssef himself cast attention on the many others caught up in the crackdown.
Join Amnesty International USA and call on the Philippine government to expedite the investigation and resolve the disappearance of activist James Balao (Photo Credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images).
April 19, 2013 marks the 52nd birthday, of indigenous people’s activist James Balao. James is just one of at least 200 to have disappeared in the Philippines over the past decade. James has not been seen or heard from since he disappeared from his hometown on September 17, 2008 when he was taken by armed men, claiming to be law enforcers.
James is a part of the Igorot ethnic group, an indigenous minority from the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines. He is a founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), a grassroots organization advocating for the rights of indigenous people. The military has vilified the CPA as a communist organization, and labeled James a communist.
The CPA feels James may have disappeared as a result of the government’s anti-terrorism measures (Operation Plan Bantay Laya or Freedom Watch), which has unfairly targeted legitimate organizations that resulted to a series of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances throughout the country.
On February 14th, Amnesty will join with V-Day in the One Billion Risingcampaign to dance in solidarity with the estimated one billion women and girls who have experienced violence in their lifetime.
Violence against women is one of the world’s most pervasive human rights abuses. It is also one of the most hidden. Globally, one woman in three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in her lifetime and yet, justice for these abuses is all too rare.
In the U.S., the Violence Against Women Act is a groundbreaking law that helps break the cycle of impunity for violence. Currently up for reauthorization in Congress, you can add your voice to ask for immediate action.
“Just stop the planes.” That was the plea made by the feisty, determined Khadija when I interviewed her in front of the remains of her home in a small village in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state last week.
If only it could be that simple. It certainly ought to be.
A month earlier a lumbering Sudanese Antonov aircraft had passed overhead and unleashed a deadly cargo of five bombs in rapid succession.
Khadija was at the nearby market at the time and therefore escaped injury. But when she hurried back to her home, pure horror awaited her. One elderly woman, unable to run, had been literally blown apart and Khadija later undertook the grim task of collecting her neighbour’s body parts.
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.
In early 2009, Zimbabwe entered an agreement to form a unity government following contested elections in 2008. Part of that agreement required the establishment of a new constitution through public consultation and a referendum vote by citizens. Due to political maneuvering, purposeful delays, and budget shortcuts that referendum has not occurred. Accordingly, new elections are mandated no later than October 2013. What does all this mean?
It means Zimbabwe, a country without an election free from violence and intimidation in one form or another since really, well, independence, will have elections sooner rather than later. While the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) does not have clean hands, most violence is perpetuated by the party with government control for over 30 years, ZANU-PF. Under the unity government, ZANU-PF retained control of security structures in Zimbabwe, and continues to use the police, security agents, and courts to harass, intimidate, threaten and torture civil society members, political opposition figures and human rights defenders.
By Kathryn Striffolino, Advocate and Science for Human Rights Project Coordinator at Amnesty International USA
Mali is currently facing its most serious humanitarian and human rights crisis since its independence in 1960, with myriad rights abuses rampant, amounting to what may become charges of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. Cue the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A file picture taken on July 20, 2012 shows members of the all-girl punk band “Pussy Riot” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (C), Maria Alyokhina (R) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (L), sitting behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow. (Photo credit: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages)
Nearly a year after punk rock protest group Pussy Riot’s performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral, a Russian prison court has ruled not to release jailed Pussy Riot member. The punk rocker’s attorneys had petitioned the Russian court to defer her sentence until her young son turned fourteen as she is a single parent.
Unfortunately, Maria will spend the remainder of her two year sentence far away from her five year old.
The ruling is yet another example of injustice compounded in the Pussy Riot case. From the initial unjustified arrests, to the questionable trial, to an outrageous verdict, each step in the case has been an affront to human rights and freedom of expression.