10 Years of Campaigning, Three Days Left to Change the World

arms trade treaty action at UN

Amadou Maiga from Mali, who has lost friends in conflict, spoke in front of a mock graveyard across from the United Nations which represents those killed by arms everyday around the world. (Control Arms Coalition/Andrew Kelly)

After 10 years of campaigning and three weeks of final negotiations, yesterday afternoon saw the belated delivery of a draft text for the Arms Trade Treaty. Governments are now in the midst of intense negotiations as they look to reach an agreement by Friday.

The draft includes a requirement that each government assess whether there is a substantial risk that an international arms transfer would be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, which is the “Golden Rule” we’ve long campaigned for. It would also ban transfers for the purpose of facilitating genocide or crimes against humanity.

In short, a strong Arms Trade Treaty will make it much harder to send arms to places like Syria where they will be used to harm civilians and violate their human rights.

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Nothing Justifies This

June 26th is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture and Amnesty International has launched a powerful new online video – “Hooded” – to mark the occasion.

Hooding is a practice that gets to the heart of the relationship between the torturer and his – or her – victim. The hooded victim is dehumanized – hooding deprives the victim of a face, of an identity – and dehumanization is almost always a precursor of abuse.

The anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson famously labeled dehumanization “the fifth horseman of the apocalypse”, an essential precursor to war, rape, pillage and genocide.

Hooding is disorientating. It is designed to restrict the victim’s ability to defend himself – or herself – from harm. It is also calculated to instill fear, a dread of the unknown, of the dark.

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Drones: The Known Knowns

Pakistan drone attack

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack. (Photo by THIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday John Brennan, the President’s adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, popped up at the Woodrow Wilson Center to give a major policy speech on the “ethics and efficacy” of drone use.

Brennan’s argument had two main planks: That drones work and that their use is entirely legal. Both claims deserve close examination because neither is quite as simple as it seems.

In a classic rhetorical device Brennan threw out perhaps the most contentious aspect of his analysis as though it was a given, stating that “as a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces.”

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A Diminished Force for Good

president obama sri lanka speech

Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday the United States sponsored a resolution at United Nations Human Rights Council calling on Sri Lanka to investigate alleged human rights abuses that occurred in the final days of the country’s struggle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

A United Nations Panel of Experts has estimated that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the conflict as the Sri Lankan Army overran the last few pockets of LTTE opposition.

As Amnesty’s recent report Locked Away: Sri Lanka’s security detainees makes clear, there are good reasons to believe that human rights abuses still continue to this day. Instances of arbitrary and illegal detention have been widely reported, as have acts of torture and extrajudicial execution.

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10 Years On, 10 Reasons Guantanamo Must Be Closed

guantanamo protest france

(Pierre-Yves Brunaud)

Ten years ago today the first twenty prisoners arrived at the US military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. As we mark this dismal anniversary, it is instructive to take a moment to reflect on the damage Guantanamo continues to do to the global cause of human rights.

Guantanamo is much more than simply the sum of its parts, and outlined below are 10 powerful anti-human rights messages that the continued existence of the detention facility sends out to the world:

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Can US Citizens Now be Detained Indefinitely?

prisoner in detention

© John Moore/Getty Images

There has been a great deal of confusion over whether the indefinite detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) apply to US citizens or not – the simple answer is that it is too early to tell.

The NDAA provisions greatly strengthen a framework for detaining suspected members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates that is derived from the law of armed conflict. Under the law of armed conflict belligerents can be detained until the conflict ends or until they no longer pose a threat.

The NDAA drafters draw a clear distinction between US citizens and non-US citizens which is itself problematic since equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles of justice and a core human right.

The NDAA “requires” that non-US citizens be treated as enemy combatants rather than as criminal suspects unless the President issues a waiver in the interests of national security.

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3 Things You Can Do To Stop Indefinite Detention & Close Guantanamo

©PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Congress is poised to force through a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would violate human rights and undermine the rule of law.

Provisions that were snuck into the bill with little notice from mainsteam media could spell indefinite detention without a hearing, keep Guantanamo open, and hinder fair trials. With your help, we can ensure that human rights violating provisions in the draft bill do not become law.

Here are three things you can do right now:

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GOP Candidates Pledge to Bring Back Torture

Still from Amnesty film on waterboarding

Still from Amnesty film on waterboarding

Saturday’s Republican Debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, treated us once again to the now traditional quadrennial spectacle of American politicians pledging to torture terrorist suspects.

The debate was intended to showcase the candidates’ national security chops and current frontrunner Herman Cain took the opportunity to demonstrate that he was fluent in doublespeak by calling for the reintroduction of waterboarding while simultaneously declaring that he abhorred torture.

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The Man in the Mirror

Unmanned drones are only one tool states are using to commit assassinations and murder. © AFP/Getty Images

On a warm autumnal morning last month, three men lounging outside a mosque in Istanbul were chopped down with military precision by a burst of automatic fire.

The gunman took the time to make sure none of his targets had survived, firing a bullet at point blank range into the head of each victim as they lay sprawled on the ground.

The three dead men – Rustam Altemirov, Zaurbek Amriyev and Berg-Khakh Musayev – were all Chechens. A Russian arrest warrant had been issued for Amriyev in connection with the January 2011 bombing of Moscow airport, which claimed 35 lives. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Dangerous Somali Fudge

Late Monday night the Obama administration reported that it had transferred a Somali national called Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame from detention on a US warship somewhere in the Persian Gulf to the jurisdiction of the New York federal court.

Warsame is accused of having provided material support to the radical Somali Islamic group Al Shabab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was reportedly detained on a fishing trawler somewhere in international waters between Somalia and Yemen. Another individual detained with him has since been released.

On the face of it, the Obama administration’s decision to refer Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame’s case to be heard in federal court is to be welcomed. The criminal justice system is both the most appropriate and best-equipped venue to adjudicate such cases. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST