From Jail Cell to Board Chair: Ann Burroughs on the Urgent Action Network

946701_10151615992491363_98894236_nThis post is the second in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.

Even now, twenty-seven years later, Ann Burroughs can remember what it felt like to go to prison.

I’ll never forget my anger as the door shut behind me for the first time. But I did not for a moment question my commitment to opposing injustice and the government’s repressive policies of discrimination and segregation.

Ann’s “crime” was campaigning against apartheid in South Africa. After being convicted, Amnesty declared Ann a Prisoner of Conscience and made her the subject of an Urgent Action (UA). The letters that poured in to South African officials as a result of that UA were integral in securing Ann’s release.


12 Photographs of Hope & Remembrance on 9/11

Today marks twelve years since the September 11 attacks, a crime against humanity. As we reflect on that day and all that has happened since, here are 12 images intended to inspire hope for a better future.

People at a candlelight vigil the night of September 12, 2001. New York City (Photo Credit: Lynn Johnson via Getty Images).

People at a candlelight vigil the night of September 12, 2001. New York City (Photo Credit: Lynn Johnson via Getty Images).


First Look: New U.S. Drone Program Documentary

By Naureen Shah, Advocacy Adviser at Amnesty International USA

Today, filmmaker Brave New Foundation released this virtual legal debate on drone strikes, featuring Amnesty International USA and other leading human rights and civil rights organizations. Brave New Foundation’s full documentary on drone strikes will be released October 30. The virtual legal debate shows that too often, the U.S. government’s rhetoric has not matched the reality of U.S. policies and practices that treat the world as a global battlefield.


Bradley Manning Verdict: Double Standards and Misplaced Priorities

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted from court (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted from court (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

It has been a more than three years since the initial leaks of classified information were posted on Wikileaks. Bradley Manning has faced many issues during that three year span – not the least of which being the unnecessarily harsh conditions of his confinement when held in a brig in Quantico – and he will continue to face many more for the foreseeable future.

However, one issue has stood out above all others: being charged and possibly convicted for aiding the enemy, for releasing classified information to Wikileaks – information that Manning reasonably believed demonstrated human rights violations and potential war crimes by the U.S. government.

The charge seemed like a stretch from the get-go. But after hearing the evidence, the prosecution presented to support such a charge, it became painfully obvious that the government was trying to make an example of Bradley Manning: regardless of your motives, if you leak government information you will pay with your life, literally.


Bradley Manning’s ‘Aiding the Enemy’ Charge is a Travesty of Justice

U.S. Pvt. Bradley Manning, 25, has lost his challenge against the charge of "aiding the enemy" (Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images).

U.S. Pvt. Bradley Manning, 25, has lost his challenge against the charge of “aiding the enemy” (Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images).

By Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International

The decision by the U.S. military judge not to drop the charge accusing Private Bradley Manning of “aiding the enemy” is a travesty of justice. If he is found guilty of the charge, he faces a possible life sentence in military custody with no chance of parole.

What’s surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet – whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times – can amount to “aiding the enemy.”


U.S. Must Stop Obstructing Edward Snowden’s Ability to Claim Asylum

By Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Amnesty International

Let’s face it: the reason Edward Snowden is stuck in limbo in Moscow is because he has revealed the unlawful behavior of the U.S. and other governments. They are trying to turn the tables and say he is the criminal when in fact it is the governments’ behavior that is unlawful.

“We think that Snowden will be in danger if he is given over to the authorities of the United States,” Amnesty International representative Sergei Nikitin said after he met with Snowden at the Moscow airport.

Indeed, the U.S. government is not only pursuing him, wanting to arrest him and charge him in the United States but they’re also obstructing his ability to claim asylum elsewhere. The Russian president has said if Snowden stays in Russia he has to shut up – but you cannot give somebody asylum and say that it is conditional on your relinquishing your right.

So what we need to do is keep heavy pressure on the U.S. government and others who are actively obstructing his right to seek asylum. We need to keep bringing the focus back to the unlawful activity of the U.S. government and other governments that he revealed.

U.S. Authorities Must Not Persecute Whistleblower Edward Snowden

Photo Credit: The Guardian via Getty Images

Photo Credit: The Guardian via Getty Images

By Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International

The U.S. authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is a gross violation of his human rights. It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.

The U.S. attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are all the more deplorable when you consider the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the U.S.

No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment. We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International, but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.


Can You Make 1 Phone Call Before 5pm EST Today to Help Close Guantanamo?


Activists demonstrate against indefinite detention and unfair trials at US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Photo Credit: Shawn Duffy).

Angry. That’s how I felt when President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, despite containing terrible provisions that run afoul of human rights standards and have been used to justify indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

Well, the NDAA is back in the House of Representatives this week and the bad Guantanamo provisions are in it again. Will you join me in demanding that Congress support the human rights of all people?

Pick up the phone and tell your Representative to support closing Guantanamo – but you must call before 5pm EST TODAY!