These Senators are sick of US bombs killing civilians

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Sa'da City, main roadIn a sign of growing concern regarding the U.S.-Saudi Arabia military alliance, 27 U.S. Senators recently backed legislation to stop a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced bill S.J.Res 39 to block the Obama Administration’s latest billion dollar tank sale. On a procedural vote, the bill failed, but to even have a vote was a major shift in the “business as usual” climate of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The bill itself represents the rising tide of dissent in Congress and across the country over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. In particular, there is increasing concern about Saudi Arabia’s military conduct in its armed conflict with the Houthi armed group in Yemen.

Together with its allies, Saudi Arabia has launched a devastating bombing campaign across Yemen, disrupting civilian communities and killing thousands. While all parties to the conflict have committed serious human rights abuses, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is the only party to the conflict to fight the war from the skies.

In spite of the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s air atrocities, the US approved sale of $1.29 billion of bombs in November 2015. In response, Murphy and Paul introduced legislation limiting sales of bombs and other air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia. The legislation conditions future sales on Saudi Arabia’s efforts to minimize harm to civilians and guarantee access to humanitarian aid for the Yemeni people.

Part of a US-made CBU-87 cluster bomb (in background) and fragment of BLU-97 cluster sub-munitions (in hand) dropped by Saudi-led coalition forces in the centre of al-Magash, a village west of Sa’da City.

Part of a US-made CBU-87 cluster bomb (in background) and fragment of BLU-97 cluster sub-munitions (in hand) dropped by Saudi-led coalition forces in al-Magash, a village west of Sa’da City.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has utterly failed to differentiate between civilian and military targets, hitting schools, villages, hospitals, and places of worship. U.S. designed or manufactured bombs have been found in the rubble. The ongoing U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia put the Obama Administration at risk of being complicit in those violations.

Prior to the Senate vote, 64 members of the House of Representatives called on President Obama to postpone the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to the President delivered August 30th, the bipartisan group urged the President to pause the deal until Congress returned from its recess and could debate the sale.

These are just the latest examples of a rising tide of congressional dissent. Here are more:

  • March 2014: 70 members of Congress urged President Obama to address human rights violations in Saudi Arabia during the President’s visit to the country.
  • March 2015: 67 members of Congress urged King Salman to implement human rights reforms in his country.
  • June 2016: Rep. Conyers proposed an amendment banning the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The proposal was very narrowly defeated, indicating Congressional concern over evidence that US cluster bombs were used in civilian areas in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

In a recent example of U.S. complicity, Amnesty International researchers determined that the bomb used in the August 15 bombing on a Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Yemen was a U.S.-manufactured bomb.

Amnesty International researchers previously documented 33 airstrikes that appear to have deliberately targeted civilians or civilian structures; such strikes are likely war crimes. In some of these cases, researchers found fragments of U.S.-designed or manufactured bombs among the ruins of Yemeni homes.

Displaced children carrying water; IDP camp in Khamir (Amran governorate).

Displaced children carrying water; IDP camp in Khamir (Amran governorate).

The war in Yemen has had disastrous consequences for the Yemeni people. The air, land, and sea blockade imposed by the coalition have made these dire humanitarian conditions worse, ensuring a chaotic environment in which Yemeni civilians must live. According to the UN, the conflict has led to the following realities:

  • 3,799 civilians have died
  • Over 6,000 civilians have suffered injuries
  • Over 3 million people are internally displaced.
  • 7.6 million people are struggling to feed themselves
  • 19.3 million do not have reliable access to clean water
  • 4.3 million women and children suffre from some form of malnourishment
  • Eight of every ten people in Yemen are dependent on humanitarian aid
  • Only 32% of promised humanitarian aid has been delivered to those who need it.

Its time for Congress and the White House to stop the U.S. arms sales that are fueling violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Troy Davis: 5 Years On

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Troy Davis

Troy Davis was executed in Georgia in 2011 despite serious doubts of his guilt.

Five years ago today, Georgia put Troy Davis to death. With a mountain of doubt about his conviction and allegations that witnesses were coerced, the entire world was watching Georgia the night of September 21, 2011 –Amnesty International had mobilized its entire global movement – joined by luminaries around the world like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Pope Benedict XVI —  to call on authorities in Georgia to stop the execution. Georgia ignored the voices of over one million activists worldwide and put Troy to death.

Troy was on death row for over two decades before he was finally executed. In that time he became a leader himself in the movement to end the death penalty, with his steadfast spirit and unshakeable faith in justice inspiring activists around the world. His case became a rallying cry that ignited the abolition movement, drawing hundreds and thousands of people to devote their time and energy to achieving justice. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Troy Davis’s Legacy

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By Savannah Fox, Field Organizer

Five years ago today, on September 21st, I became an activist. I didn’t sign my first petition or attended my first rally. I found my passion, my anger and my hope as an activist, all things which keep me in the fight for justice every day.

It was a late summer evening and I was standing under the outstretched arm of Tom Watson’s statue in front of the Georgia State Capital in Atlanta, Georgia. I was surround by hundreds of activists holding signs stating “Not In My Name” and “I am Troy Davis” in bold letters. Troy Davis. Troy was the reason hundreds of us came together to huddle in anticipation and hope. Troy Davis was a black man from Savannah, Georgia who spent 20 years on death row. Seven of nine key witnesses in the case against him, which rested primarily on witness testimony, recanted or changed their testimony, and some alleged that they were coerced by police. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Manning Faces Charges for Attempting to Take Her Life

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The news was hard to take when I first learned of it on 7 July – Chelsea Manning, who publicly stood up and took responsibility for releasing materials she felt would demonstrate the atrocities of war to the world, had attempted to take her own life nearly two days prior. Having witnessed how she sat in Court each day during her military trial, back stiff as a board, in front of media, M.P.s and observers as expert witnesses spoke about her struggles and her desire to present as a woman; knowing that she continued to struggle against the military as it refused to recognize her as such – my mind swirled back and forth between concern and sorrow as I realized that she finally reached a breaking point. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Update: Amnesty Observers at Convention Protests

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Amnesty International USA's human rights observers are ensuring that people can peacefully protest at conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia

Amnesty International USA’s human rights observers are ensuring that people can peacefully protest at conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia

Amnesty International USA has deployed a delegation of independent human rights observers to monitor protests at the Republican National Convention. We’ll be in Philadelphia next week doing the same thing at the Democratic National Convention.

This is the first time we’ve deployed human rights observers to political conventions in the U.S. We’re here because we’ve seen the right to peacefully protest being infringed upon at demonstrations around the country in the years and months leading up to the conventions.

Simply put, we’re here to help ensure that all people’s human rights are respected and protected – as only Amnesty can. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3 Ways Saudi Arabia Is Abusing Human Rights – and How They’re Getting Away With It

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Amnesty International is calling for Saudi Arabia to be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council – here’s why.

1. Crackdown on activists

Saudi Arabia has continued a sweeping crackdown on human rights activists. All of the country’s prominent and independent human rights defenders have been imprisoned, threatened into silence or have fled the country. More and more have been sentenced to years in prison under the country’s 2014 counter-terror law. Among the many people imprisoned is Raif Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. Scores more were jailed under the law after unfair trials in 2015 and 2016, including human rights defenders Dr Abdulkareem al-Khoder, Dr Abdulrahman al-Hamid, Issa al-Hamid and Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, all founding members of the now disbanded independent Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Help Me Free My Father, Leonard Peltier

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Leonard Peltier at Leavenworth.6/92 ©Jeffry Scott

By Kathy Peltier, Daughter of Leonard Peltier

Today, fathers across the U.S. will be celebrated, spending time with their loved ones and enjoying time with their children.

But for me, Father’s Day is an empty day.

My father is , a prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). His name is synonymous with the struggle for Native rights and he has been behind bars for over 40 years—my whole life.

With my father’s health failing, it would mean everything to me if he’d get to spend a little of his life with me—even a week with him would be incredible.

Help bring my father home: Tell President Obama to grant Leonard Peltier clemency. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Happy Pride!

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It’s June, and June means that we’re entering the heart of Pride season here in the United States. Around the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies are coming together to celebrate Pride.

At Amnesty International, we’ve launched our 2016 Pride Toolkit to help members and supporters take action at Pride events to promote LGBT human rights. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What If Eating Caused You Excruciating Pain? This Man’s Impossible Choice

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Michelle Shephard-Pool/Getty Images

I just ate an apple. Later, I’ll try to resist the temptation to munch on crackers. I keep hearing about the importance of a “clean diet.” I think that means no crackers. Maybe carrots instead?

As I make these decisions, I can’t help but compare them to the ones this torture survivor makes every day. If he eats, he will experience excruciating pain. If he wants to avoid the excruciating pain, he cannot eat.

This man weighs about 110 pounds. I have seen him through glass, in a makeshift courtroom at Guantanamo, and he seems frail, a wisp of a person, a man broken and hardly repaired. His name is Mustafa al Hawsawi. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST