Ask Your Elected Officials

Ask Your Elected Officials

Denouncing Torture

The Convention Against Torture, which the United States has ratified, prohibits torture in all circumstances, stating, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." In spite of this, there were reports of torture or ill-treatment by state officials in more than 150 countries, and in more than 70 countries, torture was widespread and persistent. Many people are tortured for their political or religious beliefs, or their identity, while others are tortured for being related to those accused. There have been serious allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by or on behalf of the U.S. government at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA secret detention centers, and indefinite detention and unfair trials continue to this day at Guantanamo.

Questions: As President, how would you ensure that U.S. and international laws banning torture and ill treatment are upheld by the U.S. government, and that any trials meet international fair trial standards?

Ending the Death Penalty

Amnesty International considers the death penalty to be the ultimate irreversible denial of human rights. 139 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, and only 23 countries carried out executions in 2010. The top five executing countries in 2010 were: China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and the United States. In contrast to the global trend toward abolition, the United States has executed more than 1,200 people since 1977, and as of January 2011, some 3,250 men and women were on death row. In the U.S., 138 people have been freed from death row since 1973 due to evidence of their innocence, and many more have been executed despite strong doubts about their guilt.

Questions: As President, what would you do to reform the criminal justice system to ensure that no innocent people are executed? Would you support abolition of the death penalty in the United States?

Stopping Violence Against Women

Violence against women is often ignored and rarely punished. The UN estimates that at least one in every three women globally has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Women and girls suffer disproportionately from violence both in peace and in war, at the hands of the state, community and family. Violence against women -- including rape, domestic violence, acid burning, dowry deaths, so-called honor killings, human trafficking, and female genital cutting -- devastates the lives of millions of women around the globe, and is a human rights abuse that causes physical, sexual and psychological harm and suffering.

Questions: As President, will you make passage of comprehensive legislation such as the International Violence Against Women Act, a priority? What policies would you implement to comprehensively reduce violence against women globally?

Sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women in the United States is widespread. Native women are more than 2.5 more times likely to be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, compared with women in the U.S. in general. The U.S. government has created a complex maze of tribal, state, and federal jurisdiction that often allows perpetrators to rape with impunity, and in some cases ignores jurisdictional vacuums that encourage, rather than prevent and punish, assaults. Recent legislative efforts have begun to offer small but necessary steps in addressing this epidemic of rape and sexual assault, yet the law enforcement and health services providers responsible for protecting Native women still often do not have adequate resources or funding to treat survivors of rape and sexual assault.

Questions: As President, what steps will you take to protect Native American and Alaska Native women from sexual violence? How will you ensure that Native American and Alaska Native women survivors of sexual assault have access to adequate health care and justice services - and that the perpetrators of these violent crimes are held accountable?

Demanding Dignity for Women

Although the United States spends more on health care than any other country, UN data places the U.S. 50th when it comes to a woman’s risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Two to three women die of pregnancy-related complications every day in the United States – and about half of these deaths could be prevented, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While the United States does poorly overall, women of color, immigrant women, indigenous women, and low-income women face particular risks. For example, African American women in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women, and this disparity has not improved in six decades.

Questions: Will you make passage of the Maternal Health Accountability Act a priority for your Administration? What other policies and legislation will you implement and support to ensure that the U.S.'s maternal death rate decreases?

Protecting rights of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, and Transgender individuals

Around the world, the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are violated daily. People are beaten, imprisoned and killed by their own governments simply for who they are. There are still dozens of countries with sodomy laws; punishment can include flogging, imprisonment, and in some jurisdictions, the death penalty. Those perceived to be LGBT and those who speak up for LGBT rights are also routinely the victims of harassment, discrimination and violence. In the U.S., LGBT people are still discriminated against in areas such as marriage equality and are not protected against discrimination in areas such as employment, health care and public accommodations.

Question: As President, how will you ensure equality for LGBT people both in the U.S. and globally?

Protecting Individuals at Risk

Countless individuals around the world continue to be harassed, detained and even killed simply for exercising their basic human rights. Over 63 years ago, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirming the basic human rights entitled to all people. Today, freedom of expression, especially in the form of political dissent, is being suppressed in many countries through prosecutions, “disappearances” and political killings of human rights activists, opposition party members, and journalists. For example, authorities in China sentenced a journalist named Shi Tao to 10 years in prison for sending an e-mail to a U.S.-based pro-democracy website.

Question: As President, how will you ensure that the United States plays a leading role in defending the right to freedom of expression and protecting all human rights, both at home and abroad?

Protecting Immigrant Rights

Currently, 2.1 million minors in the United States are deportable, and many more U.S. citizen children live in mixed-status families where they risk the losing one or two of their parents to deportation. Each year 65,000 undocumented high school seniors are excluded by federal law from benefiting from in-state tuition. Without this opportunity, many young migrants and their families cannot afford a higher education. Even if a migrant family is able to support a family member through college, his or her dream is stifled without permission to acquire a job in his/her field of education. Many of these students live in constant fear of detention and deportation if exposed to immigration authorities. Human rights law and standards require that States ensure every individual the right to an accessible and affordable education, that States refrain from enacting of policies and laws based on discriminatory factors, such as immigration status, and that States protect the right to family unity.

Questions: As President, what would you do to support the rights of immigrant students who arrived as children, have grown up in our communities and schools, and who consider the U.S. home? Would you support passage of the DREAM Act (H.R. 1842 / S. 952)?

Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a developing UN treaty that aims to establish common global standards for how countries import, export and transfer conventional weapons. The poorly regulated global trade in conventional arms currently facilitates serious abuses of human rights and impedes sustainable development efforts throughout the world. To protect millions of lives and livelihoods, the international community must adopt a strong and comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty with a robust human rights parameter. While it is encouraging that U.S. negotiators have taken a leading role in the discussions surrounding the scope, parameters, and implementation mechanisms of the proposed treaty, Amnesty International is concerned about the recent decision by U.S. negotiators to oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the scope of the treaty text. Questions: As President, would you make the passage of a comprehensive ATT – one that regulates the trade of ammunition and conventional weapons, and incorporates a robust human rights parameter – a priority for your administration?

Middle East and North Africa

Repressive governments across the Middle East and North Africa are under pressure and face surging demands for political, economic and social reform. Unfortunately, many governments have responded to these demands with lethal force. In Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt, the U.S. has provided weapons and military equipment to governments that have violated the human rights of their own people.

Questions: As President, would you stop the flow of U.S. weapons and military aid to governments in the Middle East and North Africa when it is likely that such weapons will be used to violate human rights?

The Human Right to Housing

Since 2007, at least 2.5 million homes have been foreclosed upon, and some estimates put the figure as high as 8 million. Here in the United States, prior to the 2008 financial crisis, 2.5 to 3.5 million men, women and children were experiencing homelessness each year, and that number has risen since – including a 9% increase in family homelessness in 2010 alone. A 2007 poll found that more than three-quarters of the U.S. public believes that housing should be considered a human right. Adequate housing is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights standards, and yet this right is far from realized in the USA, including for many residents impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Question: As President, how will you ensure that the United States, as the world’s wealthiest country, protects the right of individuals and families to adequate housing?

Demanding Corporate Accountability

Corporations are growing in power globally. Of the world’s largest 150 economic entities, 88 (59%) are companies and 62 (41%) are countries. Here in the United States, popular protest over the Keystone XL pipeline has centered on the devastating effects that oil companies can have on clean water and a healthy environment. Banks – many of which were bailed out by the federal government – are posting record profits, but since 2007 have foreclosed on millions of homes and ordered evictions of the families and individuals living in them, at a time when homelessness is rising. Human rights standards require that government ensure that corporations do not undermine or abuse human rights – including the rights to clean water, a healthy environment, and adequate housing.

Questions: As President, what steps will you take to protect the human rights of U.S. families and individuals from harm by corporations?