“The America I Believe In”: 3 Hopes for this July 4th

Amnesty International posterI see this poster every day in the main hallway of our Amnesty International office: it depicts the Statue of Liberty and reads: “The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.

It’s aspirational. And in too many ways, it’s proven the opposite of true. The United States is leading the world in perversely innovative human rights abuses, such as unlawful drone strikes and mass surveillance tapping into the Internet’s backbone.

And when it’s the US rather than another country committing human right abuses, there are additional consequences: the U.S. sets dangerous precedents for other nations to follow, while providing abusive regimes a ready-made excuse to flout their human rights obligations.

Still, I think there’s hope. July 4th is a celebration not just of U.S. nationhood, but of the country’s ideals and the best parts of its history. It’s those that I think of, when I hope for this:

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“Torture is Not Just Something that Happens to Mel Gibson”: 4 Things You Need to Know about John Oliver’s Takedown of CIA Torture

JohnOliverCIATortureOn Sunday, John Oliver made me laugh about CIA torture—and want to do everything in my power to stop the U.S. from returning to it.

His show, Last Week Tonight, ran a pointed critique of the U.S. government’s torture program: not just that it happened and that it was horrific, but that too many people in the United States continue to believe that it was excusable or even justifiable.

As Oliver explains, six months ago the Senate released a summary of its report on the CIA torture program, know as the Senate Torture Report. It contains disturbing allegations of forced rectal feeding, sexual abuse and extensive use of waterboarding.

Here’s what you missed – and what more you need to know:

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7 ways the world has changed thanks to Edward Snowden

On June 5, 2013, The Guardian and The Washington Post published the first revelations from Edward Snowden about mass government surveillance. (c) Private

On 5 June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the first shocking evidence of global mass surveillance programs.

We’ve since learned that the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been monitoring the internet and phone activity of hundreds of millions of people across the world.

Two years on, we take a look at seven ways the landscape has changed thanks to the documents Snowden released:

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5 Things You Need to Know: The CIA’s Horrific Torture of Majid Khan

MajidKhan

By Kimie Matsuo and Zak Newman

We learned earlier this week of even more shocking, horrific details in the case of one detainee who fell victim to the CIA’s torture program. Majid Khan, who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for almost nine years, is one of the 119 men whose case is mentioned in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture. But this week’s news, coming from declassified statements from Khan himself, includes revelations of grotesque and abhorrent treatment never publicly reported by the Senate committee.

Here’s what you need to know: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Chelsea Manning: ‘Why speaking out is worth the risk’

US Army Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified government material to the website Wikileaks. © Juan Osborne for Amnesty International.

US Army Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified government material to the website Wikileaks. © Juan Osborne for Amnesty International.

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. From her prison cell in Kansas, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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The Terrifying Reason 64% of Mexicans Fear Detention

Facts and Figures infographicsBy Esmeralda Lopez, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Mexico My desire to end torture in Mexico runs deep. Years ago it became too dangerous for me to visit my family in Mexico because they are only hours from Ciudad Juarez, a hot spot of violence. Some officers point to incidents of violence and the high crime rate as justification for use of torture. But I know torture is not the solution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

When Will We See Justice for Michael Brown?

Police surround and detain two people in a car on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing its fourth day of unrest after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday. (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Police surround and detain two people in a car on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing its fourth day of unrest after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images).

This piece originally appeared in The Guardian under the title “Police Brutality Must Be Punished if We Want Real Justice for Michael Brown.”

From California to New York, from the streets in Ferguson to those in the south side of Chicago, police brutality continues unabated all across the United States because of brazen impunity – because in this country’s long history of abuse and violence by those obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities, there is still little accountability.

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Why is President Obama Letting U.S. Soldiers Get Away with Murder in Afghanistan?

Afghan relatives of civilian victims of the country's conflict examine the Amnesty International report detailing those killed by U.S. forces in the country at a press conference in Kabul on August 11, 2014. The families of thousands of civilians killed by American forces in Afghanistan have been left without justice or compensation. (Photo credit: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghan relatives of civilian victims of the country’s conflict examine the Amnesty International report detailing those killed by U.S. forces in the country at a press conference in Kabul on August 11, 2014. The families of thousands of civilians killed by American forces in Afghanistan have been left without justice or compensation. (Photo credit: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

By Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director

In the early hours of September 16, 2012, a group of women from different villages in Afghanistan’s eastern Laghman province set out to collect firewood.

As they stopped to drink water by a small spring, a number of U.S. military planes appeared in the sky and started dropping bombs. Seven of the women were killed and another seven injured, four of them seriously. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

TAKE ACTION: New Photo Campaign for Disappeared Activist

Amnesty activists hold up "Where Is Sombath?" signs as part of a Flickr campaign to demand an investigation of his disappearance. (Photo credit: Amnesty International)

Amnesty activists hold up “Where Is Sombath?” signs as part of a Flickr campaign to demand an investigation of his disappearance. (Photo credit: Amnesty International)

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty International USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator

Amnesty International is launching a “Where Is Sombath?” photo campaign on Flickr.

Activists from around the world are asking the government of Laos to investigate the
disappearance of development worker Sombath Somphone, and we’ll do it through our voices, print, photos and more. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

War Crimes Committed in the Battle for Mosul

Iraqis forced to flee fighting in Mosul seek shelter in camps for internally displaced people. (Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Iraqis forced to flee fighting in Mosul seek shelter in camps for internally displaced people (Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images).

By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International from Mosul, Iraq

Long lines of cars full of terrified families jammed the road as I left Mosul on June 25. The mass exodus is testament to the affect on civilians since fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) took control of the city.

As we headed east towards Erbil, militants from ISIS were indiscriminately shelling Hamdanyah, home to some of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities.

All sides are committing war crimes in the raging battle for control of Iraqi territory and resources.

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