Trump’s CIA Pick Must Disavow Torture – and Commit to Upholding the Law

By Ann Burroughs, Chair of AIUSA’s Board of Directors

Donald Trump has made it clear he wants bring back torture. “We should go much stronger than waterboarding,” he said last year, calling it “your minor form” of torture.

Now he’s picked Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA – an individual who called the CIA’s program of torture and disappearing under the Bush administration “within the law” and “within the Constitution.”

We can’t let Trump bring back the CIA torture program. Trump’s pick for CIA chief must reject torture – and commit to upholding the law. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Defending Human Rights & the Trump Administration: The Front Line Moves to Washington, DC

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Next month Congress will get to interview nominees for the incoming Trump administration. These cabinet nominees are important indicators as to whether his administration will be uphold and protect human rights or whether the inflammatory rhetoric from the campaign will become policy. The implications for human rights – here in the United States and internationally could not be more stark and hard as it may be to remember the incoming administration will have a huge impact globally as well as here in the United States.

So far President-elect Trump’s nominees to lead foreign policy raise more alarm than confidence. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Margin to Center: Sex Work Decriminalization is a Racial Justice Issue

Sex workers wait for customers in Honduras (Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images).

By Jasmine Sankofa, AIUSA Sexual and Reproductive Rights Advocate

Sex work is criminalized throughout the United States, typically as misdemeanor offenses. Similar to the way the Unites States treats and criminalizes drug use, the policing of sex work exacerbates stigma, compromises access to resources, justifies violence, and is steeped in racial disparities. Women of color, especially Black cisgender and transgender women, girls, and femmes, are particularly vulnerable. Because sex work and sex trafficking are conflated, interventions are focused on abolishing the sex industry instead of eliminating structural issues that drive exploitation. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ohio’s proposed abortion bans would violate human rights—We must fight back!

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UPDATE SINCE LAST POSTED: 

Ohio has become the 18th state to adopt a 20-week abortion ban. Governor Kasich vetoed the 6-week abortion ban, and signed the 20-week abortion ban into law on December 13, 2016. The 20-week ban, as described below, has no exceptions for rape or incest. It also criminalizes and penalizes abortion providers who would be at risk of receiving an 18 month prison sentence for providing abortion services after 20 weeks.  

We, along with our partners, will continue to fight the unconstitutionality of bans like this, and the dangers of criminalization. 

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During the U.S. Presidential campaign, we watched in horror as public figures spoke proudly about their plans to defund Planned Parenthood. And we were witness to calls—including from then candidate/now President-elect Trump—for stricter abortion laws, even at one point calling for a total abortion ban, despite the fact that proposed restrictions and bans would put pregnant people’s lives in danger and violate international law.  One of the figures calling for stricter abortion laws was Governor Kasich of Ohio. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Six Trump Proposals That Must Never Become Policy

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa © Matt A.J.

 By Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA

In the very early hours of November 9, we voiced our grave concern about statements that President-elect Donald Trump made over the course of the election and his promises to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., build a wall on our country’s southern border, restrict access to healthcare and return to the practice of torture.

Already in the U.S. there have been reports of a spike in hate-driven actions and threats. This is not a coincidence – it is further proof that Trump’s irresponsible proposals must never become U.S. policy. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Race and the Death Penalty: “Just a Bunch of Racists”?

390763 02: A protester holds a sign up against a backdrop of palm trees during an anti-death penalty protest on the eve of the second federal execution in nearly four decades June 18,2001 in Santa Ana, CA. Juan Garza, who was sentenced to death by a judge who believes that the death penalty is morally wrong, is scheduled to die a week after the killing of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh in Terra Haut, ID. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

At a recent public debate of California’s competing ballot initiatives on the death penalty, Paul Pfingst, a former district attorney for San Diego County and a supporter of Prop 66, spoke about the role race plays in the death penalty.

He said that race plays a role in every facet of the criminal justice system, but the notion that “the people making these decisions [about death penalty sentencing] are just a bunch of racists who don’t care about these things, is just unfair.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

These Senators are sick of US bombs killing civilians

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 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