Join the Close Guantanamo March in DC on Jan 11

Join us in Washington DC on January 11th for a  march to close Guantanamo! We’ll gather at the White House at 11AM for some short speeches and then march to the Department of Justice.

We’ll have orange jumpsuits for people to wear, “No Kangaroo Courts at Guantanamo” signs, and banners urging the government to either charge or release detainees, including Shaker Aamer, who has been held without charge over 8 years, despite the UK government requesting his return.

Speakers at the rally will include: Tom Parker , Amnesty International USA’s advocacy and policy director of terrorism, counterterrorism and human rights, Valerie Lucznikowska, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, historian Andy Worthington, Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney, the Center for Constitutional Rights representing Guantanamo detainees and Frida Berrigan, Witness Against Torture.

Why January 11? It’s the 9th anniversary of detainees arriving at Guantanamo to face torture, indefinite detention and unfair military commission “trials”–seen around the world as kangaroo courts.

EVENT:          Rally to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison

DATE:            Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TIME:             11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

WHERE:         In front of the White House, Washington, DC

MORE INFO:   [email protected]


President Obama signs Tribal Law and Order Act

I am thrilled to share with you a deeply moving moment in a long-awaited, hard-fought, and historic victory for Native American and Alaska Native peoples in the United States.  Last Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege of attending a special ceremony at the White House where President Obama signed into law H.R. 725 – the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. This law entering into force marked an important step forward in beginning to address some of the many continuing injustices that Native American and Alaska Native communities – particularly women – face in this country.  It was especially meaningful to stand not just along aside my Amnesty International colleagues but with our Native partners who for so long have fought to stop the horrific violence and human rights violations inflicted on Native American and Alaska Native women.  It is their courage and determination that made this historic advance possible.

The Tribal Law and Order Act is a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that tackles the complex jurisdictional maze that allows violent crime against Native American and Alaska Native peoples to flourish.  In particular, it seeks to put an end to the epidemic rates of rape and sexual assault perpetrated against Indigenous women in the US.  As many of you know from your years of activism and support for AIUSA’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, the situation we found Native women facing in this country when began our research in 2005 was truly appalling.  As detailed in our 2007 reported entitled Maze of Injustice, Native women are 2.5 times more likely than other women in this country to be raped. Women from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas told us that they couldn’t think of a single woman who hadn’t been sexually assaulted.  More than one in three Native women will be raped at some point in their lives, 86 percent of them by non-Native perpetrators. The fact that the majority of these crimes occur with total impunity points clearly to the legacy of discrimination that Native communities had faced for many generations.

Among other things, this legislation means that every Native American and Alaska Native woman now finally has the chance to get a police response, have access to a rape kit, the opportunity to see her case prosecuted and see justice served for crimes committed against her. It standardizes the much needed sexual assault protocols within the Indian Health Service to ensure that survivors of sexual assault will receive proper treatment and care and that crucial forensic evidence will be collected.  The Act also clarifies who is responsible for prosecuting crimes in tribal communities and restores authority, resources, and information to tribal governments.  While taking initial steps to restore power to tribal governments to take more direct action in cases of violent crime, it will also hold federal authorities accountable for failure to prosecute.


President Obama: This Summer, Help Women and Girls Around the World

President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for women worldwide, stating that ratification of the CEDAW treaty (Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) is an important priority for the United States. The time has come for President Obama to send a strong signal to the Senate that ratification of CEDAW is vital.

The United States remains the only industrialized democracy and the only country in the Western Hemisphere not to ratify this critical treaty which affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world.

We know that CEDAW works! Countries from Australia to Uganda, Brazil, Morocco, and South Africa, have incorporated provisions in the CEDAW treaty into their constitutions and domestic legal codes.  Additionally, Egypt, Jordan, Nicaragua, and Pakistan have all seen significant increases in literacy rates after improving access to education for girls and women.

It is time for the US to show global leadership on women’s issues by ratifying CEDAW. Advancing women’s human rights is critical to America’s national security interests and a cornerstone of our foreign policy. However, because the US has not ratified CEDAW, it cannot participate in the CEDAW committee, the one global forum dedicated to women’s human rights.

Women of the world are calling on the US for ratification of CEDAW as a strong signal to their governments that promoting the rights of women is a priority. It would help enable a national dialogue on how to address persistent gaps in women’s full equality and would serve to address domestic issues of maternal mortality in US. CEDAW calls for equal access to health services (including maternal health) and ending discrimination on the grounds of maternity. Learn more about Amnesty’s Maternal Health Campaign.

President Obama has stated that ratification of the CEDAW Treaty is an important priority for his Administration.  We now need him to translate words into action and show true leadership in advancing women and girls’ rights around the world.  As women and men who believe in the basic rights of women and girls worldwide – the right to live free from violence, the ability to go to school, and access to the political system – we need President Obama to send a strong and urgent signal to the Senate that ratification of CEDAW is vital.


UN sends a strong message to U.S. about the state of its indigenous people

The United Nation’s first report on The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, released on January 14, 2010, contains figures and an assessment that are both shocking and illuminating, even to those who are familiar with indigenous rights issues. The report evaluates the state of indigenous populations in specific countries and situations, in both the developed and developing world.

The report states that,

“Indigenous peoples suffer from the consequences of historic injustice, including colonization, dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, oppression and discrimination, as well as lack of control over their own ways of life. Their right to development has been largely denied by colonial and modern States in the pursuit of economic growth”

The United States is by no means exempt from the report’s critique. Despite increased state and federal acknowledgment of the challenges that Native Americans and Alaska Natives face in the U.S., the U.S. has made only incremental change and continues to generate appalling statistics and significant disparities. A recent study that applied the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index (HDI) – which measures health, education and standard of living — to indigenous populations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand found that while the U.S. ranked seventh overall (globally), U.S. American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked thirtieth.

The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples notes that nearly a quarter of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live below the poverty line in the U.S., compared to about 12.5 percent of the total population, and pinpoints the direct relationship that the educational deficit has upon economic opportunities and employment rates.


An Evolution in Zimbabwe

Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Sarah Hager (Amnesty International USA), White House, November 23, 2009

Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Sarah Hager (Amnesty International USA), White House, November 23, 2009

I had the honor and pleasure of attending the RFK Human Rights Award ceremony last night, hosted by President Obama and Mrs. Obama at the White House, where Magodonga Mahlangu and Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were recipients of the annual award. I can sum it up in one word: wow. I laughed, I cried, I was disappointed the toilet paper did not have the presidential seal.

In President Obama’s words:

And that may be Magodonga’s greatest achievement — that she has given the women of Zimbabwe each other.  That she has given people who long for peace and justice each other. That she has given them a voice they can only have collectively-and a strength that they can only have together. They are a force to be reckoned with.

I attended in the capacity as nominator of WOZA for the award. Amnesty International works closely with WOZA and they are a special focus case for action here in the US. It was a team effort putting together the information requested by the RFK staff, but it was an easy sell convincing them that Magodonga and WOZA deserved the award. These women redefine inspiring.