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We put a human face on complex issues to hold governments accountable.

Below you’ll find breaking news as well as reports, updates on our campaigns, and victories.

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Update

Do Desperate Times Really Call For Desperate Measures?

Recently, lawmakers in Mexico have proposed reinstating the death penalty to deal with rising kidnapping and murder rates.  According to the LA Times, lawmakers will hear arguments regarding this amendment to the constitution next week.  Talk of executing criminals in Mexico has become more frequent by some politicians as the number of unsolved kidnappings, many resulting in murder, soars.  One such lawmaker said, “In Coahuila the death penalty is not the issue, it's how we should kill (the criminals); by firing squad, slashing their throats, hanging or something lighter, like lethal injection.” But let’s step back for a minute.  The…

December 5, 2008

Update

Time to Start Writing, Stamping, and Sending!

Today is the first official day of Amnesty International's 2008 Global Write-a-thon! Over the next week and a half, thousands of people around the world will be writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders, and other individuals at risk. Because so many people around the world are participating, authorities will receive a tidal wave of letters appealing for the human rights of these individuals, and they will find it hard to ignore. There has already been a huge amount of interest in the US. Over 6,800 people have registered on the AIUSA website, pledging to write over…

December 5, 2008

Update

A Sad Anniversary

Remember these men from Indonesia? Monday was the four year anniversary of their arrest, and Amnesty is encouraging people to blitz the Indonesian government with emails on their behalf. Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, who are also featured in this year's Write-a-thon, were arrested and sentenced to prison sentences of 15 and 10 years, respectively, for their nonviolent activities. Amnesty International considers the two men to be prisoners of conscience. Please take a few minutes out of your day to campaign for the release of these men.

December 4, 2008

Update

The Real Story Behind Abu Ghraib

Standard Operating Procedure, directed by Errol Morris, tells the dark story behind the infamous photographs of detainee abuse and humiliation that came out of Abu Ghraib in 2004. The images are haunting and uncomfortably familiar. Pictures of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid, a hooded prisoner standing on a box waiting to be electrocuted, a U.S. soldier giving the thumbs-up in front of a dead inmate in a body bag—these images are burned into minds around the world as symbols of the United States’ “war on terror.” At face value, these images just show the ugly side of a few…

December 3, 2008

Update

Can a Women's Rights Treaty Make any Difference?

Earlier this week, President-elect Obama made a commitment to push for Senate ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This treaty has been signed by several Presidents (including President Jimmy Carter in 1980) but has never reached the Senate floor. That's a 20 year denial of women's rights.  The United States bears the shame of being the only industrialized country which has not ratified it. The question is, would ratifying an international treaty make any difference?  The answer is yes, CEDAW is important!  The treaty has been a vital tool for women's rights activists in countries which…

December 3, 2008

Update

Inmate ordered off death row in North Carolina

Clinton Smith, a man sentenced to die in 1998 for the death of his daughter, was ordered off death row last week by state Supreme Court judge John Jolly, Jr.  Mr. Smith cannot read or write and has an IQ of less than 70.  He was found to be mentally retarded and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia.   His sentence was changed to life in prison.  The question remains, however, as to why Mr. Smith’s death sentence was not lessened six years ago after the Court ruled that…

December 3, 2008

Update

A Stronger US Stance Against Mass Atrocities?

With every day that passes, grave human rights violations continue in places like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma. President-elect Barack Obama’s recent personnel decisions have fostered speculations that we will see a stronger US stance against the mass atrocities that are perpetrated in these countries. Obama’s most recent pick: Today, he nominated Susan Rice as US Ambassador to the United Nations. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, Rice has described US policy towards the crisis in Darfur as “Inaction in the Face of Genocide”. Jerry Fowler of the Save Darfur Coalition praised the appointment…

December 2, 2008

Update

Parliamentarians Debate Women's Rights

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is bringing together members of parliament from around the world this week for a conference on “A Parliamentary Response to Violence Against Women”. During this conference, parliamentarians will discuss the role they can play in ending violence against women. The legislature can play a critical role in ending abuses and achieving rights for women, particularly by introducing laws that fulfill the “three ps” - prevent violence, protect survivors of violence and punish perpetrators of violence. In our own United States Congress, there is a bill to end violence against women around the world, the International Violence Against…

December 2, 2008

Update

Is it worth the risk, Maryland?

When testifying before state lawmakers in 2007, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley asked “Can the death penalty ever be justified as public policy when it inherently necessitates the occasional taking of wrongly convicted, innocent life?”  According to Michael May, a former military and Baltimore City police officer, the answer is no.  In an op-ed in today’s Baltimore Examiner, May writes that he originally supported the death penalty, certain that all opponents of capital punishment were just “muddleheaded, knee-jerk liberals.”  But it was the risk of executing an innocent person that changed his mind, and he now advocates for repeal of the death…

December 2, 2008

Update

AIDS is a Human Rights Issue

Today is twenthieth anniversary of the first World AIDS Day, established to commemorate those who have died of the disease and marshal attention to address the epidemic.   The World AIDS Campaign has declared "Lead-Empower-Deliver" to be the theme for this year.  For the last several years, AI has been zeroing in on the message that AIDS is a human rights issue.   Human rights abuses place people at greater risk of contracting HIV, and, all too often, those living with HIV and AIDS are subjected to human rights abuses.  Check out Amnesty's special web feature in honor of World AIDS Day. Nowhere is the link between human rights…

December 1, 2008

Update

Rally Echoes Congolese Plea for Help

Rallying in front of the White House on November 23, I joined over 100 activists in expressing our concern for Congolese civilians, as armed groups turn their homes into a battlefield. Three messages continue to stand out in my mind: Protect the People! Stop Violence against Women! and No Child Soldiers! Amnesty International USA organized this event in response to the humanitarian and human rights emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling on the United States to follow through with their support of a new UN Security Council Resolution  by delivering the needed troops and equipment. The resolution passed unanimously,…

November 26, 2008

Update

Washington Execution Stayed

Two separate courts (a County Superior court and a Federal District court) have issued stays of execution for Darold Stenson, who was scheduled to be put to death by the state of Washington on December 3.   According to media reports, these stays will be appealed by state and county officials who are still hopeful that the execution can take place. The Federal court’s decision was based on a lethal injection challenge, while the County court has ordered new DNA testing which might shed light on Stenson’s claims that he is innocent.  The question of the utter arbitrariness of the death penalty…

November 26, 2008