7 Ways for Obama to REALLY Earn that Nobel Peace Prize

president obama

Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

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.


Three Reasons Why I Can’t Wait For Thursday

eve ensler

Eve Ensler will keynote the XX Factor on October 4th.

On Thursday October 4th, Amnesty International will be holding our 2nd Annual Women’s Rights Forum in Washington, D.C.

The XX Factor: Town Hall on Women’s Rights, will bring together human rights defenders, issue experts and grassroots activists on women’s human rights work to talk about the frontline women’s rights issues in the United States, and around the world. That, in and of itself, is worthy of excitement. But that isn’t all!

Here are 3 reasons to get excited about this year’s XX Factor.

1. With little more than a month until the U.S. elections, now is the time to set our agenda for the rights of women and girls for the next four years. Our panelists – Kierra Johnson, Executive Director at Choice USA, feminist scholar Linda Hirshman and Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President of the National Women’s Law Center, will tackle issues ranging from women’s economic status to reproductive freedom, as well as the importance of women’s political participation in November, and beyond.


More Help Needed: Tweet for Rights in Rwanda

On June 24 we asked you to take action, now we need your help again.

In Rwanda, individuals are often forced to choose between their own safety and their rights to freedom of expression and association. For many years, the Rwandan government has stifled voices of criticism and opposition. 2010 saw an increase in the number of abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and the murders of a journalist and political opponent who dared to speak out against the government.

On June 24 we asked for your help in encouraging the Rwandan government to reopen investigations on the one year anniversary of the shooting of Jean-Leonard Rugambage, a journalist and deputy newspaper editor.

Now, we are asking you to add your voice to Amnesty’s in urging officials to reopen investigations into the killing of André Kagwa Rwisereka, vice president of the opposition Democratic Green Party, who was found beheaded one year ago on July 14. His killer has yet to be prosecuted.


Take Action On Twitter For Free Speech In Rwanda

By Tom Gibson, Amnesty Internationals Central and East Africa Campaigner

Rwandan president Paul Kagame holds a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Monday, Aug. 9 2010. © AP Photo / Margaret Cappa

Freedom of expression in Rwanda has been unduly restricted for many years. The killings of a political opponent and a journalist in 2010 indicate how people who criticize the authorities are often at risk.

We believe the Rwandan government should re-open the investigation into the killings of Jean-Leonard Rugambage and André Kagwa Rwisereka by establishing two separate independent commissions of enquiry.

One year ago, Rwandan journalist and deputy editor of the Kinyarwanda newspaper Umuvugizi, Jean-Leonard Rugambage, was shot dead outside his home in Kigali on June 24, 2010. There is no evidence that Rwandan police have explored those leads into the killing of Jean-Leonard Rugambage that pointed towards it being politically motivated.


Top 10 Summer Book List for Human Rights Advocates

Here at Amnesty, our staffers have put together a list of books on our summer reading list for human rights. We invite you to read with us as we look to books, non-fiction and fiction alike, on issues in today’s world. Here are our top 10 summer must-reads!

1.) Anil’s Ghost: A Novel
by: Michael OndaatjeAnil's Ghost

Summary: With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Booker Prize—winning author Michael Ondaatje gives us a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language and the piercing emotional truth that we have come to know as the hallmarks of his writing. Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war. Into this maelstrom steps Anil Tissera, a young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, who returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past–a story propelled by a riveting mystery. Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka’s landscape and ancient civilization, Anil’s Ghost is a literary spellbinder–Michael Ondaatje’s most powerful novel yet.*

2.) Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by: Samantha Power

Summary: In this perfect match of author and subject, Pulitzer Prize-winner Samantha Power tackles the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose work for the U.N. before his 2003 death in Iraq was emblematic of moral struggle on the global stage. Power has drawn on a staggering breadth of research (including 400 interviews) to show us a heroic figure and the conflicts he waded into, from Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge to the slaughter in Bosnia to the war-torn Middle East. The result is a peerless portrait of humanity and pragmatism, as well as a history of our convulsive age.*

3.) Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by: Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunnHalf the Sky

Summary: From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad.*

4.) Woman at Point Zero: Second Edition
by: Nawal El SaadawiWoman at Point Zero

Summary: “All the men I did get to know, every single man of them, has filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face. But because I am a woman I have never had the courage to lift my hand. And because I am a prostitute, I hid my fear under layers of make-up.” –Excerpt This is a new edition of the best-selling novel with a specially commissioned new Foreword by Miriam Cooke.*

5.) Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations
by: Ayaan Hirsi AliNomad

Summary: Ayaan Hirsi Ali captured the world’s attention with Infidel, her compelling coming-of-age memoir, which spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now, in Nomad, Hirsi Ali tells of coming to America to build a new life, an ocean away from the death threats made to her by European Islamists, the strife she witnessed, and the inner conflict she suffered. It is the story of her physical journey to freedom and, more crucially, her emotional journey to freedom—her transition from a tribal mind-set that restricts women’s every thought and action to a life as a free and equal citizen in an open society. Through stories of the challenges she has faced, she shows the difficulty of reconciling the contradictions of Islam with Western values.*


United Nations Must Re-Impose Arms Embargo on DRC Government Forces

According to a UN Panel of Expert’s report released last Friday, government security forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are providing arms and ammunition to the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) in violation of the UN arms embargo on DRC.  In addition, the DRC government continues to be a major source of weapons for other armed groups in the DRC.

Congolese refugees at the DRC/Uganda border in Ishasha

Congolese refugees at the DRC/Uganda border in Ishasha

Mainly a Rwandan Hutu armed insurgent group that contains remnants of forces allegedly responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, FDLR has been responsible for mass atrocities, including the unlawful killings of civilians, abductions, and rape, and continues to fuel devastation in the DRC.  The DRC government, FDLR, and mayi-mayi militias are fighting against the rebel armed group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), which has also committed grave human rights violations.

The UN Security Council is set to review the Panel’s report tomorrow, which includes additional evidence of the Rwandan government providing military support to the CNDP, including the provision of child soldiers.  The report also shows that the U.S. government has failed to notify the UN Peacekeeping Mission in DRC (MONUC) of its efforts to train DRC government forces as required by paragraph 5 of UN Resolution 1807 (2008).

In March 2008, Amnesty appealed to the UN Security Council not to ease the arms embargo on supplies to non-integrated DRC government army brigades anywhere in the DRC and brigades going through integration in the east of the country.  However, the Council eased this part of the embargo among other import restrictions.  The consequences of the relaxation of the embargo have been very damaging.

Tomorrow, the UN Security Council has an opportunity to remedy this past decision.  As such, in order to prevent diversion from official DRC holdings, all transfers to DRC government units deployed in eastern DRC should be made by prior arrangement under MONUC supervision among several other critical factors that the UN Security Council should adopt.