Amnesty International campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience – people who have been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status, provided that they have neither used nor advocated violence.
In 2015, YOU helped put the pressure on 18 cases to ensure the release of many journalists and activists. The list below is reflective of how we can work together to create positive change in the lives of others. Thank you for all your support – together, we are standing up for people risking everything to speak out. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Last week, President Obama put a much-needed spotlight on the vicious cycle of mass incarceration. In the past three decades, the prison population in the U.S. has ballooned due to a number of factors that have created a system rife with discrimination and other abuses. And the burden falls disproportionately on low-income people and people of color.
The President made a historic visit on July 16 to a federal prison — the first sitting president to do so. His visit spotlighted the massive overcrowding problem — he was shown one 9-by-10-foot cell that sometimes holds three prisoners — that is the result of a broken criminal justice system.
Destroyed home of al-Akwa family in which five civilians were killed in two consecutive airstrikes on 13 June 2015. (Credit: Amnesty International)
By Ali Azizi, Yemen Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA
Despite more than 100 days of heavy fighting, the impoverished country of Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis that you most likely haven’t heard of.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are more than 21 million people – 80 percent of the population — in need of aid throughout the country. All essential supplies, from food to fuel to medical supplies, are in severe shortage.
I see this poster every day in the main hallway of our Amnesty International office: it depicts the Statue of Liberty and reads: “The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.”
It’s aspirational. And in too many ways, it’s proven the opposite of true. The United States is leading the world in perversely innovative human rights abuses, such as unlawful drone strikes and mass surveillance tapping into the Internet’s backbone.
And when it’s the US rather than another country committing human right abuses, there are additional consequences: the U.S. sets dangerous precedents for other nations to follow, while providing abusive regimes a ready-made excuse to flout their human rights obligations.
Still, I think there’s hope. July 4th is a celebration not just of U.S. nationhood, but of the country’s ideals and the best parts of its history. It’s those that I think of, when I hope for this:
A cell in the isolation unit in Angola prison in Louisiana. (Credit: Louisiana State Archives)
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has specifically condemned Woodfox’s treatment as torture and called on the United States to eliminate the use of prolonged isolation. Albert’s case has returned to the spotlight in the past month because he is no longer a convicted man – a federal judge ordered his unconditional release in early June, two years after his conviction had been overturned for a third time (a last-minute appeal kept him behind bars).
Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images
Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.
By T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA’s International Advocacy Director
Freedom of expression is under constant attack in China. But the recent sentence of prominent journalist, Gao Yu is not just another dissident being silenced. 71-year-old Gao Yu has been speaking out for nearly 30 years. She was detained without charge or trial for 15 months after the June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Upon release in 1990, she continued to work as a freelance journalist. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.