No More Rapes: End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Haiti

After she moved into a makeshift shelter in Dessalines Square, Champ-de-Mars, Haiti, “Suzie” and her friend were gang raped in front of their shelter.

 “After they left I didn’t do anything….I don’t know where there is a clinic offering medical treatment for victims of violence.” 

Because she was blindfolded, Suzie didn’t go to the police because she didn’t know who the men were that raped her.  She told Amnesty International that the police patrol the streets, but she’s never seen them inside the camp.

In the Haitian camps there are many women and girls like Suzie. It is therefore vitally important that both the international community and the Haitian government take immediate action to treat the issue of violence against women as a priority for the humanitarian and reconstruction effort in Haiti. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

MOMS for the 21st Century

Amnesty International’s pathbreaking report, Deadly Delivery, documented the maternal health care crisis in the United States: women in the United States have a greater lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy-related causes than women in 40 other countries, with African-American women dying at an almost four times greater rate than Caucasian women.

As Amnesty’s Mother’s Day briefing on Capitol Hill showed, legislators recognize the urgency of this issue and are responding.

Today, one of those champions is stepping up and introducing a vital new piece of legislation. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s (D-CA) “MOMS for the 21st Century Act” would:

  • Strengthen a geographically and racially diverse maternal health care workforce
  • Improve research and data collection on maternal health care, including identifying health professional shortage areas and promoting evidence based maternal care
  • Elevate and coordinate work on maternal health care within the Department of Health and Human Services

Amnesty International is proud to enthusiastically support the bill. The MOMS for the 21st Century Act is the first in a series of legislative initiatives that we’re working on — stay tuned for more news in the weeks to come!

Posted in USA

Last Day to Get Your Representative to Help the Women of Atenco!

Women of Atenco

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Help us reach our goal of 50 Congress Members’ signatures on a Congressional sign-on letter for the women of Atenco by this Friday!  Representatives Keith Ellison and Tammy Baldwin have sponsored a letter that will be sent to the Mexican authorities to demand that justice is upheld for the women of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico.  We currently have around 42 Representatives’ signatures, so please encourage yours to sign on to the letter so that we can have a greater impact on the Mexican authorities!

The women of Atenco were sexually assaulted and tortured by police officers over four years ago following protests in the local town square, but no one has been held accountable for this injustice.  Despite a report issued by the federal Attorney General’s office which recommended the prosecution of 34 state police officers, and a statement released by the Supreme Court that affirmed that human rights abuses did occur in Atenco, the authorities have not prosecuted anyone for the crimes against these women.

We believe that right now is a perfect opportunity for us to pressure Mexican officials to prosecute those guilty of the crimes. Two weeks ago, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that 12 activists from the Atenco protests in May 2006 be released because they had never been granted a fair trial. These activists had been arrested for allegedly kidnapping police officers during the protests, but the charges against them and their sentences were unjust.  While Amnesty International welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision, we must continue to pressure the authorities to hold the police officers and judicial officials responsible for the crimes during and after the protests to account.  Simply freeing wrongfully-imprisoned activists is not enough—those responsible for crimes of torture, sexual assault, and misuse of the judicial system must be prosecuted!  Let’s take advantage of this timing to remind the Mexican authorities that they have a responsibility to uphold the human rights of their citizens.

Please take action today by asking your representative to sign the Congressional letter!  Call the Congressional switchboard at 202 224-3121 and ask for your representative, or take action online! The letter will be closed on Friday, so please take action now!

Urgent Action Needed for Congo: Wall Street Reform Conferees Need to Hear From You

Over the past few months, your activism has helped us ensure that Congress would act on conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So it’s great news that House and Senate sponsors of the original bills have agreed on great language to be included in the Wall Street Reform bill. The language would ensure companies are subjected to audits and required to disclose where the minerals they use come from – helping stem the flow of conflict minerals from the DRC.

AI mission delegates being shown coltan and cassiterite, Tchonka, Shabunda territory, South Kivu province, eastern DRC, April 2009. Copyright Amnesty International

But companies are pushing back, putting pressure on conferees not to pass the bill. We need you to make your voice heard. Members of Congress need to hear from those of us who support bringing an end to conflict and human rights abuses in the DRC, not just from the companies who don’t want to have to change their ways.

So take our online action today to tell conferees you support the Congo conflict minerals amendment.  You can send them emails between now and Tuesday to make sure Congress does the right thing for the people of Congo.

And if you have extra time, you can also call their DC offices and talk to their foreign affairs staff directly. Or find them on Twitter or Facebook and help spread the word about Congo’s conflict minerals.

Knock on Congress’ Door to Stop Pregnancy-related Deaths

By Chris McGraw, Grassroots Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA

lobby_imageFrom March 29-April 9th, we’re sending clusters of human rights supporters out to the front lines in their home districts to meet with Senators and Representatives.

The purpose of these visits is to educate members of Congress about the shocking rates of pregnancy-related deaths among women in the United States. The awful truth behind these appalling numbers is that half of these deaths can be prevented. Women are dying because they simply can’t afford to access proper maternal care.

These groups, or delegations, that will help raise awareness about this tragedy, play an essential role in keeping human rights central to the health care debate. Right now we are looking for people who can help us coordinate these meetings locally.  There are a few things you should know first before you consider going head-to-head with your Senator or Representative:

1) Senators and Representatives aren’t as mean as they look on TV. Now don’t get us wrong, they aren’t angels either, but for the most part, we find that elected officials enjoy sitting down face-to-face with their constituents.  They are public servants and can only represent you if they know where you stand on the issues. After meeting with our delegations, we’ve seen members of Congress change their tune on our issues – signing on to letters of support or even voting in favor of human rights!

2) There is power in numbers. Even though your delegations are made up of a few people, you’re not just at the Congressional office as a small group; you’re representing a movement of millions.  As a representative of Amnesty International, your reputation precedes you.  When you stand up for human rights, you never stand alone.

3) Preparation is key. We won’t let you go in there unprepared.  In fact, our government relations experts are on-hand to answer all your questions about how to organize an effective meeting and present the issue clearly. We’ve put together step-by-step guides and other instructional materials to ensure that you feel prepared before you meet with your elected officials.

I hope you’ll consider joining our fight to prevent pregnancy-related deaths. We will not back down until a woman’s right to a safe childbirth is fully protected!

Posted in USA

How is the US currently upholding the human rights treaties to which it is a party of?

This week, on December 15, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law held the first ever Congressional hearing on U.S. implementation of its human rights treaty obligations.  The hearing examined what the U.S. government is doing and should be doing more of, to fulfill its obligations to protect and promote human rights domestically and abroad.

Subcommittee Chair Durbin (D-IL), along with Senators Cardin (D-MD), Feingold (D-WI) and Franken (D-MN), expressed deep concern and commitment to ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead by example on the international stage, by prioritizing and addressing the numerous human rights issues that currently exist within the U.S., including issues around detention, child trafficking, Indigenous rights, and discrimination, to name just a few.
Amnesty International submitted written testimony for the hearing, which included expert testimony by key members of the administration as well as representatives of top domestic and international human rights organizations. A copy of this testimony is available if you are interested.

King of Horror's New Anti-Torture Ad

When I was around 10-years-old, I somehow caught a few minutes of Christine, the film based on Stephen King’s novel about a killer car. And it freaked me out. To this day, I’ve still never gotten a driver’s license.

Anyway, Stephen King knows a lot about horror. So if he is freaked out about the U.S. government’s use of torture, then you know it’s serious. Recently, Mr. King took the time to write a personal letter to President Obama calling for an independent commission of inquiry into the U.S. torture program, and that letter will be published tomorrow as an ad in the special Congressional printed edition of Politico, right next to the paper’s section on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

It’s part of the Committee’s job to “provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

They’ve done about as good a job as Christine’s mechanic.

Members of the committee had agreed to start a review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. When, you ask? 2002? ’03? ’06? Nope, not until last March. A little slow off the blocks. Then, late last month, the ranking Republican on the committee, Kit Bond (R-Mo.), “withdrew from the probe” in protest over Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to open a preliminary review into a small number of cases of alleged detainee abuse that the DOJ under President G.W. Bush declined to prosecute.

Basically, a guy who was supposed to make sure that the government follows the law in intelligence operations quit to protest an investigation into whether the government followed the law in intelligence operations.

This is unacceptable. And it’s illegal. Congress and President Obama are obligated by U.S. law to fully investigate, prosecute and provide remedy for torture and other human rights violations. They need to know that the U.S. public will hold them accountable if they do not obey the law and hold accountable those responsible for torture.

Join Stephen King in calling for a full investigation into torture. Read his letter and forward it to President Obama at You wouldn’t want to make Stephen King mad, would you?