Milestone for International Justice in Kenya

Kenya police passout paradeOn Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that four out of six senior-level Kenyan officials must stand trial for crimes against humanity. This includes two presidential hopefuls, and all four are accused of complicity in the widespread violence that erupted in the aftermath of the bitterly disputed 2007 presidential elections which left over half a million Kenyans displaced and over 1,100 killed.

The ruling by the ICC marks an important milestone for victims of violence and their right to justice, truth, and reparations, and will also go far in setting a historic precedent in ensuring international justice for crimes committed against humanity worldwide. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated:

High Tech #Activism: New Technologies in the Fight For Human Rights

Yes, I’m worried about tomorrow. Which is exactly why I am going – we cannot, will not let them scare us. #jan25

This statement, posted on January 24, 2011, and referring to the first day of protests in Egypt, was one of the early tweets using the hashtag #jan25. One dictator later, it has become the global short code to follow the uprising across the Middle East and North Africa.

Can a tweet bring fundamental human rights change? I don’t think so. However, after the events of the last few weeks in the Middle East, nobody will dispute the power of social media for organizing and for the advancement of freedom of speech. Social media is only one of many new tools human rights advocates use to bring about change. Other new areas are the emerging field of crisismapping, the use of remote sensing such as satellite images and systematic data analysis.

If you are interested to learn more about some of these new trends and how they are used by human rights advocates, join our event on “High Tech #Activism” (pdf) at Amnesty International USA’s upcoming Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

From sophisticated satellite imaging techniques and “crowd-mapping” to Facebook and Twitter, the new technological reality is dramatically shaping the human rights landscape in places such as Egypt, Haiti, Sudan and Sri Lanka. Experts from Amnesty are joining leaders in other fields to explore the potential and limitations of new technologies and scientific progress for human rights work:

What: A discussion with Patrick Meier, Director of Crisis Mapping and New Media at Ushahidi, Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO of Benetech, Scott Edwards, Director of AIUSA’s Science for Human Rights Program and Juliette Rousselot, International Justice Advocacy Staff at AIUSA.
When: Saturday, March 19th, 2011 @ 10:40 AM
Where: The Fairmont Hotel (Terrace Room), 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California

Libya Crisis Map

I am sure you did not see this coming, but you can follow the panel discussion on March 18 in San Francisco online by following #agm11 on Twitter.

Don't Ignore the Dire Human Rights Situation in Sudan

This posting is part of the Sudan Referendum Watch series

While many observers are optimistic that the referendum in South Sudan this Sunday will go ahead peacefully, the last few months do not bode well for the future human rights situation in the country (no matter what the outcome of the referendum will be).

Thousands have been displaced by the government’s military offensive in Darfur, while the international community’s attention is focused on preparations for the referendum and the negotiation of a peace agreement for Darfur.  Since December 2010, more than 20,000 people in Darfur have been displaced during attacks by the Khartoum government’s attacks on various parts of North and South Darfur, including camps for the displaced in Dar Al Salam, Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche. The international community shouldn’t repeat its mistakes from 2004 and 2005, when focus on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) led to an ignorance (and acceptance) of grave crimes committed in Darfur.

The April 2010 elections were marked by human rights violations and threats to freedom of expression in both the south and north of the country and  we remain concerned that such violations would occur again during or after the referendum.

Human rights should be at the heart of this coming referendum. The governments of unity and of south Sudan should make it clear that human rights violations will not be tolerated. The respect, protection and promotion of human rights in Sudan are vital to the success of this historic vote.

An Amnesty International delegation recently returned from Juba in southern Sudan where it assessed the human rights situation ahead of the referendum. To get detailed information about our human rights concerns in Sudan, please take a look at some of our resources:

For an interesting non-AI resource, don’t forget to follow the Sudan Vote Monitor (SVM), which was launched today. SVM is a Sudanese civil society initiative to monitor the referendum and is based on the powerful Ushahidi plattform.

Southern Africa Year in Review 2009

Waiting in line to vote. Amnesty International.

Waiting in line to vote. ©Amnesty International

As 2009 winds down, here’s a wrap up of the year’s highlights from the southern Africa region. From elections, to assassinations, to elections, to awards ,to elections, to boycotts, to elections, to what was all in all a fairly smooth year compared to what might have been, here are a few notes about human rights conditions in the 12 countries we monitor for Amnesty International USA.

Angola was supposed to hold presidential elections this year but didn’t. Current (and for the last 30 years) president, dos Santos, said constitutional reform must come first and this will take another two years.  Constitutional reform=good. Using it as an excuse to delay democratic elections=bad.

Forced evictions continued in 2009 in Angola. Amnesty International continues to call for an end to illegal evictions and for just compensation for forcibly displaced persons in Angola.

On a positive note, Prisoner of Conscience Fernando Lelo was released this year. Lelo is a journalist imprisoned for criticizing above noted president. However, those who were tried and convicted with him remain incarcerated. Lelo directly credited Amnesty activists for their efforts on his behalf. Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done!

Botswana held elections this year. Khama was elected to a new term, after finishing out the term of his predecessor. Major concerns in Botswana continue to be media restrictions, repression of labor unions, displacement of indigenous persons and high HIV infection rates. But Khama does his fair share of criticizing regional leaders and tweaking the nose of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe. He mailed a congratulatory letter to the ladies of Women of Zimbabwe Arise following their win of the RFK Human Rights Award this year.

Guinea Bissau