This Woman Has Been Denied Justice for 17 Years

Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).

Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).

By Rebecca Landy, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

You probably are aware of the news reports in the last twelve months regarding the horrific sweatshop fires and building collapses in Bangladesh that killed and injured over a thousand, mainly women, laborers.

Or maybe you read recently about U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling out Bangladesh for the injustice and violation of international law in the recent verdict of death sentences for 152 border guards accused of murder.

But chances are you have not heard of Kalpana Chakma and the 17-year miscarriage of justice in waiting for a proper investigation into her disappearance.

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Getting Over ‘Sudan Fatigue’

The rainy season in Sudan has begun, and for UN and aid agencies operating just across the Sudan border in the dozens of refugee camps housing those who’ve fled from the indiscriminate bombing of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), a logistic and operational nightmare is very present.

For the hundreds of thousands displaced by the bombing campaign, food and (paradoxically) water shortages have reached crisis proportions.

Last night, Amnesty released its newest research findings in ‘We Can Run Away From Bombs, But Not From Hunger,’ documenting the illegal and indiscriminate bombing campaign of the SAF in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in Sudan.

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The Chilling Words of Syria’s President

Assad speech Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gives a rare rare televised speech delivered in parliament on June 3, 2012. Assad said that his government faces a foreign plot to destroy Syria, and blamed 'monsters' for the Houla massacre. (Photo Louai Beshara/AFP/GettyImages)

Yesterday, Syrian President Bashar Assad justified his government’s actions by comparing himself to a doctor trying to save a patient.  As reported by the Associated Press,  Assad stated in a speech:

When a surgeon in an operating room … cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood?  Or do we thank him for saving the patient?

The disturbing words come against a backdrop of horrifying violence.  Amnesty International has received the names of nearly 10,000 people killed since the government began cracking down on peaceful protestors over a year ago.  Although peaceful demonstrations have continued, the unrest has turned increasingly violent. Armed opposition groups, many loosely under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have also carried out attacks – mainly against Syrian security forces.

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Syria: Why The Security Council Matters

Update: Take action now by urging the Russian government to join others on the UN Security Council in putting an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

The crisis in Syria has reached a pivotal point. The situation on the ground has sharply deteriorated over the last few days, prompting the Arab League to suspend its mission.

In New York, the UN Security Council will be briefed today by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, followed by a potential vote on a new draft resolution later this week. A Syrian activist currently based in the U.S. described this new development yesterday by stating: “It has become the last chance for the Security Council to act.”

I agree that it is high time for the Council to end its silence—if demands to end the serious and widespread human rights violations are front and center of the resolution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why The Nobel Prize Isn’t Just About Women’s Rights

Yemen's Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian 'peace warrior' Leymah Gbowee, winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Today the Nobel Committee announced that it is awarding its Peace Prize to three women: Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkul Karman, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

While the fact that the prize is being awarded to three women is important, it is not the most important symbol of what today’s announcement represents. Sure, the number of women who have been honored in the prize’s history (twelve until today) pales in comparison to the number of men (eighty-five), and that disparity should be addressed.

But focusing exclusively on the numbers game as we congratulate Gbowee, Karman and Sirleaf misses the point entirely: these women are not honored today because they are women. They are honored for what their work represents in promoting a more peaceful, just world. Doing so as women, they are both at unique risk and offer unique solutions—but their work makes the world a better place for all.

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Will UN Finally Act On Syria Atrocities?

© Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The situation in Syria further escalated over the weekend. Yesterday alone, more than 100 people were reportedly killed across the country and the death toll is feared to be increasing.

In a by now familiar pattern, Syrian authorities used tanks and snipers to attack civilians. We believe that the crimes committed in Syria constitute crimes against humanity.

I just learned that the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Syria later today and I urge you to sign our online petition to call on Brazil, India and South Africa to end their opposition to a Security Council resolution condemning the grave human rights violations.

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Ivory Coast on Brink of Human Rights Catastrophe

Months after disputed presidential elections in Cote D’Ivoire, the country seems to move towards the final showdown. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the spreading crisis, and the new escalation is likely to displace more people or put them at risk of being caught in the crossfire.

With violence escalating and forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara advancing toward the Ivory Coast capital of Abedjan, Amnesty International warned today that the capital city faces a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe and urged the international community to protect civilians. We have learned of retribution attacks and uncontrolled armed elements looting and burning homes and shooting civilians in the west.

Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa, made the following statement:

Abidjan is on the brink of a human right catastrophe and total chaos. Côte d’Ivoire is facing a major humanitarian crisis. The parties to the conflict must immediately stop targeting the civilian population. The international community must take immediate steps to protect the civilian population.

Since the beginning of the week, the Republican Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara have launched a general offensive against the forces loyal to outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power.
As the Republican forces advance in the west and in the center of the country, violence has escalated. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

War Crimes in Sri Lanka: Time for UN to Act

Delivering the petition to the UN

Last May, Amnesty International launched a global action calling on the UN to establish an international investigation into war crimes and other abuses committed during the war in Sri Lanka.

Both the Sri Lankan government and the opposition Tamil Tigers were responsible for massive human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war during the 26-year conflict.

In response to Amnesty’s call for action, over 52,000 people signed our petition to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanding an international investigation as a first step toward accountability for these crimes.

This past Tuesday, Feb. 22, I had the privilege of accompanying Yolanda Foster, the Amnesty researcher on Sri Lanka, and Dr. Kasipillai Manoharan, the father of one of the “Trinco 5” students killed by the security forces in 2006, to the UN offices in New York as we delivered the signed petitions to the UN.  We pressed the UN to act on our petition without delay and let them know we would be following up to make sure an international investigation is promptly established.

The U.S. government has not yet joined Amnesty in our call for an international investigation.  We could use their support.  Please write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ask that the U.S.  government encourage the establishment by the UN of an international investigation into war crimes and other abuses in Sri Lanka.  For Dr. Manoharan’s sake and that of all the other families of the victims, we cannot stop campaigning until they receive justice.

Satellite Images Show Grave Crimes Continue in Darfur

UPDATE: Please take action to ensure accountability  for crimes committed in Darfur

While the whole world is watching the outcome of the South Sudan referendum, Darfur continues to burn. New satellite images released by Amnesty’s Science for Human Rights Program provide shocking evidence that grave human rights violations continue in Darfur 8 years after the outbreak of the conflict. The situation has deteriorated in the run up to the referendum in South Sudan last month.

More alarmingly, the escalation in violence has been largely ignored by the international community, which is focusing on the formation of a new state in the south of the country.

Click to see full graphic

The Negeha region of South Darfur
The images were analyzed by our partners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and show irrefutably that civilians were targeted in the Negeha region of south Darfur with whole villages burned to the ground as recently as December. We have previously reported that in December alone more than 20,000 people were displaced by government attacks, including in Dar Al Salam, Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche displacement camps in north and south Darfur.

Based on new reports of offensives in the Negeha region in December 2010, we sought to document any apparent violations of international law through the targeting of civilian dwellings. According to reports, the villages of Negeha and Jaghara were burned in December 2010, resulting in more than 7,000 internally displaced persons. Satellite imagery of the region was collected and compared from three time periods: December 2005, January 2010, and December 2010.

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Keeping Maternal Mortality on the Agenda at UN Human Rights Meeting

Linda Coale died of a blood clot a week after giving birth to her son, Ben, by c-section. The infant welcome packet included extensive information about acclimatizing pets to a new baby, but had failed to adequately alert her to warning signs of complications, despite the heightened risk due to her surgery.

On Friday, the United States will appear before the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for its “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR).  The UPR is a process through which the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed once every four years.

I have come to Geneva to monitor the US’s participation in the UPR and to educate both the US government and those of other member states, on Amnesty International’s concerns about the state of human rights in the United States. In April, Amnesty submitted a written report to the HRC detailing our US human rights concerns, ranging from the use of the death penalty, to the need to establish a commission of inquiry into all war on terror-related detention policies and practices, the need to bar racial profiling in law enforcement, and the need for a human rights executive order to help establish a domestic human rights infrastructure.

Today I had the opportunity to speak about another tragic human rights issue that Amnesty has been focusing on: maternal mortality in the United States.  At the event, hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, I featured the findings of our report, Deadly Delivery: The maternal health care crisis in the USA and discussed the maternal health crisis in the United States, particularly among marginalized communities.

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