How Did the State of the Union Stack Up On Human Rights?

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun Laws

During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.

It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?

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#DearObama: 3 Steps to Advance Rights of Women and Girls in Your State of the Union

U.S. President Barack Obama (C), joined by (L-R) Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Deborah Parker, Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joseph Biden, trafficking survivor Tysheena Rhames, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Director of Public Policy of Casa de Esperanza Rosemary Hidalgo-McCabe, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Police Chief James Johnson of Baltimore County in Maryland, and Executive Director of New York City Anti-Violence Project Police Department Sharon Stapel, signs the Violence Against Women Act into law at the Department of the Interior March 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. The law expands protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Obama, , joined by Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Deborah Parker, trafficking survivor Tysheena Rhames, Police Chief James Johnson of Baltimore County in Maryland, and Executive Director of New York City Anti-Violence Project Police Department Sharon Stapel, and members of Congress and his adminstration, signs the Violence Against Women Act into law March 7, 2013. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Dear Mr. President,

This State of the Union, will you make women’s rights a priority?

Women across the world—including here in the U.S.—experience horrific levels of violence. 1 of 3 women globally will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in their lifetime, and you, Mr. President, can help end this epidemic.

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#DearObama: Use Your State of the Union to Reject Politics of Fear

the america i believe in

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Dear Mr. President,

Here comes the fear again.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, some in the broadcast news media are attempting to turn the public’s shock into full-fledged hysteria – the kind that fuels not only their ratings, but suspicion, hate and a bunker mentality.

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National Debate Must Connect the Dots on Abuses in the USA

no blind eye to torture 2x1By Zack Michaelson

Our nation is currently in a debate about how to handle gross abuses of power by those tasked with defending us. In past weeks, we have learned more about the vast conspiracy of torture operated by the CIA, perpetrated on more than one hundred people. We have witnessed a run of recent incidents involving police using what appears to be unwarranted lethal force. The police violence around the country has also appeared to get inadequate investigation and accountability, angering many. These coincident events derive from shared issues, and now is the time for action for those who defend human rights.

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11 Reasons January 11th Must Be Guantanamo’s Last Anniversary

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This Sunday, January 11, marks the grim 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. With the momentum President Obama has now, he must make this anniversary Guantanamo’s last. Here are 11 reasons why closing the prison now is a human rights imperative: 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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An Obligation to Seek Justice for CIA Torture

Torture activism in front of the White House

The Senate torture report alleges several grave abuses – such as use of rectal feeding and rehydration in the absence of medical necessity – that were not authorized by even the dubious legal memos, and thus do not fit the Justice Department’s rationale. Even Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has said he is troubled by evidence suggesting the CIA went beyond Justice Department guidance. The Senate torture report also concludes that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” to the Justice Department.

If the Justice Department already knew of the abuses reported in the Senate torture report, it must do more to explain why it found no basis for prosecutions. And if the Justice Department did not have access to this information, how can it dismiss the Senate torture report’s new evidence out of hand?

Nor is it sufficient for the Justice Department to cite “good faith” reliance on dubious legal guidance as a basis for closing investigations. The U.S. is bound by international law to ensure accountability for torture.

This is an excerpt. Read the full piece and upvote it at US News’ Debate Club.

 

Racial Profiling: The Devil is in the Details…or the Footnotes.

Arizona Activists Hold Vigil To Protest New Immigration Law At White House

On December 8, 2014, the Department of Justice released its revised “Guidance on the Use of Race” by law enforcement officials.  Just in time for Human Rights Day (and you thought the feds only cared about the Constitution).

The revised guidance expanded the classes protected from discriminatory policing from just race and ethnicity to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and religion. It not only covers federal law enforcement officers performing federal law enforcement activities, including those related to national security and intelligence, but also local and state law enforcement officers  who are participating in federal law enforcement task forces.  While not providing a private right of action, it does require each agency to collect data on complaints made under the guidelines. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What John Brennan Should Have Said about the Torture Report

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

By Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA Director of Security with Human Rights

Today John Brennan, director of the CIA, gave a live press conference responding to the Senate’s landmark report on the CIA torture and secret detention program. He acknowledged “mistakes.” He said that the program was “flawed.” He said that the CIA had now improved “management” and “planning.”

But words like these do not reflect the full gravity of torture and enforced disappearances. They downgrade this program of systematic human rights violations to a series of unforeseen complications. They make torture seem like a bad choice – instead of the crime that it is.

Here’s what Brennan should have said, without qualification: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST